Saturday, December 22, 2007
I got my TX1 back on Wednesday, and not a moment too soon. The Fairway I was driving was beginning to make me ill. Crap suspension, crap heating, crap windscreen wipers and crap security. It got broken into whilst on my drive one day last week and a bag containing quite important stuff to me was stolen. I’ve never been broken into whilst driving a TX1 or TX11 as it’s harder to break into these types of cabs without breaking the glass. The Fairways or FX4’s window locks are very basic and with a good pull the windows can be lowered allowing access to the door handles inside. It was mostly stuff that can be replaced but there were a few personal effects in there that can’t be which I will moan about for a few weeks and then move on with my life.
I’ve been able to do Xeta work again since getting the cab back as the bracket to hold the PDA and the GPS antenna remained with the cab during the overhaul. After a decent shift on Friday I finished up by accepting an underground job. As I’ve mentioned before that’s where we have to collect London Underground staff and take them home. I bid on a job from Morden Station whilst I was in the Chelsea area and was offered the job, which meant a long drive down to the station. I knew the job ended up in Edgware as it comes out every night so it was worth running for it. When I arrived at Morden the whole area was sealed off with Police tape but there wasn’t a copper in sight. The closest I could get was still pretty far from the pickup and I was immediately swamped by people looking for cabs. After fighting them off I decided the best thing to do was to get out of the cab and walk back to the station to see if I could see my first passenger. Most underground workers wear pretty distinctive blue coats with white trim on the arms so I was sure to spot him, wasn’t I? Unbeknown to me this guy had walked straight past me wearing something totally not London Underground issue uniform and managed to find my cab which had a name board with the logo on it whilst I’m stood at the station in the freezing cold waiting for him. After 15 minutes of simultaneously waiting and freezing my nuts off I thought “fuck this for a laugh” and walked back to my cab. Seeing this guy standing there in unfamiliar clothing I opened up the cab and started the engine and fired up the heater, which luckily after 15 minutes was still partially warm. “knock knock” went the window. “Are you waiting for so and so?” asked my man. “Yes I am,” I answered. “I’ve been waiting here for fifteen minutes,” says he. He may have wanted to start a rant at me but thought better of it as I must have looked stressed, fed up, pissed off call it what you like. I wasn’t in the mood for anyone’s complaints and would think nothing of it to terminate the ride there and then at the risk of being expelled from the radio circuit. Only tonight was I discussing with Chris about the minute amount of work this radio circuit has and if the subs were any more than the £13 we pay per week then they could shove it where the sun don’t shine. We’re just a back-up for a bigger radio circuit and we get all the work their drivers refuse to do. From 8pm until midnight I wasn’t offered one job, luckily there was plenty of street work. Post-Christmas should be interesting!!
The last few days of the pre-festive season are with us and there are some strange, if not comical people, out there. This next guy brightened my evening tonight.
I dropped a couple off at Sussex Square near Paddington and was immediately approached by a gentleman of Arabic appearance with a handlebar moustache (Poirot style) looking slightly disorientated and extremely drunk.
(Try and imagine this next exchange with a strong Arabic accent)
Him: My friend, where is Hyde Park Square?
Me: Just a few hundred yard along there mate.
Him: Where am I?
Me: You’re in Sussex Square and Hyde Park Square is that way, I can drive you there if you like?
Him: How much?
Me: About three pounds
Him: Two pounds (his haggling qualities kicking in)
Me: The meter starts at two twenty and it’s not negotiable.
He then tries to open the door but the handle is hard to locate as it’s camouflaged by my door advertising. He eventually finds it and opens the door. I hear a thud and look into the back of the cab. He’s sprawled on the floor face down mumbling something in Arabic. He manages to get up and park his bum on the seat.
Him: OK my friend, we go to number 2 Hyde Park Square, you wait for me and then we go to the Barracuda Club. I pay you five pounds OK?
Me: No, not OK you pay me what’s on the meter. (not one to suffer fools gladly I follow up with) I tell you what my friend (being slightly condescending), I’ll take you to Hyde Park Square, you pay me three pounds, you go in and do what you have to do and then get another cab to take you to the Barracuda, OK?
He seemed to accept this and I drove him the short distance to Hyde Park Square in silence. On arrival he opened the rear door and promptly fell out of the cab and landed face down on the pavement. I know it’s only slightly funny but I had to laugh. He got up, dusted himself down and answered my request for three pounds by producing three coins and then turned on his heels and entered the building. I was almost tempted to wait there until he came out to find another cab but I could’ve waited forever whilst there were people out there looking for cabs. I drove off with a smile all the same.
The penultimate job was a strange one. I picked a couple up from East Smithfield just before Tower Bridge. The lady was directing and asked for Mint Street. I asked did she mean Royal Mint Street which was literally a hundred yards away and she agreed. They began a deep kissing session which I had to keep interrupting to get further directions. I must have said “where now?” about five or six times before she tried to get me to drive through a no entry and make an illegal turn. I asked her what the name of her road was but she only knew how to direct me. She normally walked hence the dodgy directions. In between each direction they resumed snogging and the guy was trying to get her to let him go into her house with her but she wasn’t in the mood.
“What are you going to do in there all by yourself?” he asked. She gave him some excuse or other and said she’d call him and left the cab. Deflated, the guy asked me to take him to the Sunborn Yacht out by the ExCeL Centre in Docklands. From the telephone call that ensued I could only assume it was his wife he was going back to with the taste of another woman on his lips. Tut Tut!
All in all it was a good night and it only leaves me two more nights of work before I have a three day break for Christmas.
Happy Christmas to you all.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Well, I’ve been on jury service for the last few weeks and have had to work as well so I haven’t had the energy to blog.
I won’t go into the details of the trial but it was an industrial espionage case involving phone tapping and computer hacking. The defendant was only on the fringes of the whole thing and after a short deliberation we agreed he was not guilty. He was very relieved and mouthed the words “thank you” over to us. The police officers on the other hand were not and shook their heads in disbelief at our verdict. The whole thing was an experience but financially it has taken its toll on me. The courts only pay you a certain amount, certainly not enough to cover what I’ve lost. I pity those people with a mortgage. Also I was lucky that the trial only lasted two weeks, some of the other jurors were on cases lasting from between three to six months, that would definitely have ruined me, as I’m sure it’s ruined some of them.
My regular cab is now in the garage going through its annual overhaul. The manager brought a Fairway round to me last Friday as I was busy in court and couldn’t get over to the garage. What a shit-cart!! There are at least a dozen things wrong with this cab but the main thing is that the suspension is actually non-existent. I may as well be driving a horse and cart. Two people have commented on the bumpiness of the ride and I’m sure many more would’ve loved to. I can’t wait to get the other one back.
I’ve been trying to do a bit of work most nights after finishing at the court but as tiredness has set in I’ve ended up going home early.
This week has seen work in abundance on the streets due to the Christmas parties taking place. Tonight it was “one in one out” everywhere and even as I finished there were still hundreds of people looking for cabs.
I was in the traffic at Notting Hill Gate when a guy came up to the window and asked if I would go to Wimbledon Village for twenty pounds. I said no and drove off and he tried to stop me pulling away by grabbing the window frame shouting “Oi, oi, wait!!”
People like him make me sick. Would he accept less money in his pay packet at work because his boss didn’t want to pay him the full amount?
I stopped with Chris tonight at Gloucester Road where we had a coffee. Whilst looking at all the lovely ladies walking past our cabs the conversation inevitably turned to sex.
EDIT: Next bit was removed by author as it may have caused offence.
Good Night all.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Because of the GOOJF card I now have to either miss work tomorrow or go out after the game at around 10pm. There’s always something prohibiting me from working a full week these days. I won’t have the same problem with my beloved Leeds United as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by league 2 side Hereford. We fielded what looked on paper like a full strength team but still managed to lose at Elland Road. At least we can now concentrate on promotion.
My Mondays are now taken up playing for a darts team. I’ve played on and off for a long time. I’ve always had a dartboard on the wall wherever I’ve lived and can stand there for hours practicing. In one of my homes there was nowhere to hang it so I put it on a piece of wood across the toilet door. You had to bend down to get into the toilet and would invariably whack your head or scrape your back at least once or twice a week. My wife used to scream at me to take it down but I never did. My two sons also love to play and the rivalry at home can be fierce at times. We actually won our first game this week and spent the rest of the evening celebrating in style.
The body clock is shifting around again as it does from time to time. I’m finding myself getting out of bed at around five or six in the evening and having to get straight out to work. I didn’t even have time to cook a meal for the kids but luckily there was enough food in the house for them to rustle themselves something up.
I walked out the door at 7pm and drove straight down to the Royal Oak Taxi Centre for a meal. I checked with Chris to see if he was “coming out to play” but he had just ordered a pizza and was debating whether to stay in or come to work. He did eventually come out to play. I had my usual, Spaghetti Bolognese and a chicken escalope and afterwards I drove down to Paddington Station for my first job, which went to the Thistle Charing Cross Hotel. (I noticed all the Thistle logos were missing so I’m assuming it’s been taken over by another company) The traffic between Paddington and Park Lane was at a standstill as the traffic entering Edgware Road was stopping the Bayswater Road traffic from entering the one-way system. It’s a regular occurrence at that junction and if there was anyway that we could know before hand we could divert through Hyde Park, but then we wouldn’t get the waiting time hehe!! The job went £20 instead of the usual £10. Tut tut!!
I found my self on the South Kensington Rank and a couple of likely lads walked up to me and asked if I knew anywhere in Soho where they could “get girls”. Now I know quite a few places and had a particular one in mind, which would be beneficial to both parties, them and me. I headed for the New Georgian Club in Mill Street, rubbing my hands together as I drove along. As I turned off of Conduit Street into Mill Street I looked to my left for the familiar doorway. It wasn’t there. It’s now a Japanese Club. They had been getting ready to leave the cab when I informed them that it was closed. “What now? “ one of them asked me. I told them that I knew of another club in Kingley Street and they said that they wanted something a bit more instant. The only way they would get something instant would be to find a telephone box and ring a number from one of the many cards stuck to the walls advertising all sorts of personal services. I offered to get the cards and ring the numbers and after speaking to a few “madams” they opted for an address a few streets away in Harley Street. A few meters from the address they lost their nerve and they both bottled out and asked me to take them to Spearmint Rhino instead. Pussies!!!
I met Chris in Oxford Street and we had a coffee and a slice of cake whilst parked in the middle of the road. Buses and taxis were passing us on both sides as we watched the world go by. We were sitting in Chris’s cab and the cake I was eating was topped with icing sugar which was making a mess of his carpet so I had to go get my hand brush and sweep it out.
Once finished we went our separate ways. I trapped almost immediately. This guy was rat-arsed. He wanted to go to his new girlfriend’s house in Earls Court. He asked if he could smoke. “No, it’s illegal” I said. He said he’d take care and open the window. I said no again but I think he may have lit up all the same. He talked non-stop. He knew politicians and important people. I just let him ramble on as he didn’t seem to want an answer. Then his phone rang. It was his new girlfriend. He cupped the mouthpiece for privacy but I had the intercom on and could hear the whole conversation. “Do you love me” he asked her. “I can’t wait to see you” “we’re gonna have some fun tonight”. Good luck to him, I thought to myself. Then he started kissing the phone and caressing it and making all the kissing noises. Possibly a bit over the top but so what? The man was in love. Unaware that I had witnessed the whole thing he resumed his monologue after hanging up. He started telling me a story of how he’d got one over on our sworn enemies, the miniscabs (unlawful taxis). He told me how a miniscab had touted him at Victoria. The tout, a Kosovan, asked him in broken English where he wanted to go and he informed him he wanted to go to Folkestone (90? Miles away) on the South Coast. “Where’s that” the tout exclaimed. “What’s the furthest you’ve ever taken anyone?” asked my man. The tout replied “Orpington for £20”. My man then told him that Folkestone was a fiver past Orpington and the tout took him all the way to Folkestone for £25. It could’ve happened but I thought it highly unlikely and humoured him all the same. He asked to stop at a food outlet and I told him the ride would have to end there as I didn’t want food in the cab. I was glad to get him out as he was giving me the hump.
It’s very rare that I have even one conversation during my shift. Partly because they don’t instigate it and partly because I can’t be bothered. Tonight I had three decent conversations.
The second one was with a stunning woman who asked my opinion on whether I found her attractive. She had been to a party and the only person to have approached her was a bouncer “and he was fat” she added. Seeing that I was a bit on the portly side she quickly added “not that there’s anything wrong with fat people” and proceeded to dig a big hole for herself. I had to stop her as she was getting flustered and told her that the reason she wasn’t having any luck with men was that they were probably intimidated by her beauty and felt that they never had a chance with her. She would have to take the initiative. By the end of the trip I had deduced that she would always have trouble with men because she was, what I would call, a prat. Plain and simple. Totally up herself with no humility or charisma. I wished her luck on her quest and drove off shaking my head.
The third conversation was with a lovely old boy wearing a kilt. Yes he was Scottish. We started talking about football and how lucky England had been to get a lifeline into Euro 2008. That led onto how unlucky the Scotland team had been and how tough a group they had been selected into. He got extremely animated as he spoke and as I turned to face him when stopped at lights I could see his kilt was riding up over his knees to reveal he was a traditionalist. It was only a short ride so his exhibitionism was soon at an end. And…..he gave me a five pound tip. Not bad for a Scotsman.
So, not the best of nights but more interesting than most.
Check back soon.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
After getting a new alternator fitted I still had one more bit of grief with the cab. The following day the battery still hadn’t charged fully so by the morning it went flat after only a few turns of the key. I boosted it with my son’s car and went to work and after a whole shift it still went flat the next day so after boosting it yet again I had to go back to the garage for a new battery. I drove over to the garage and just before arriving I stopped one street away, switched the engine off, flicked the fuel cut-off to “off” and turned the engine over a few times to run the battery down to the last bit of power in case they said there was nothing wrong with it. I over-did it and ended up stranded. I rang the garage up and one of the mechanics came out to me with a booster pack. A new battery was fitted and all has been well ever since. It’s so cold at the moment that any sub-standard battery will struggle to perform. I'm still having gearbox problems whereby the gearbox refuses to jump into second gear unless I’m flat out and now a new problem seems to be starting up where the power steering is misbehaving when cold. It’s never-ending with this cab yet I still persevere with it. Why?
It was noticeably quiet on the streets tonight. I started a bit late today on account seeing a mouse run behind the fridge. I ran upstairs and grabbed the dog, a Jack Russell, from my daughter’s room and placed him behind the fridge. The mouse saw him and made a dash for the kitchen door but the dog was too quick for it and soon had the mouse between his jaws, extinguishing its life in an instant.
My first job went from Paddington Station to Spencer Park in Wandsworth and on my way back over the bridge I trapped a job up to Kensington. Chris was also out tonight and we met up at the Piccolo in Mayfair for a bit of dinner, well, he had dinner and I only had a coffee as I’d eaten steak and kidney pie and mash at home before coming out to work. The rest of the shift wasn’t fantastic but there was a burst of activity from ten till twelve and then it died down again. I ranked at Victoria and the beggar was doing the rounds but no-one gave him anything. My job took me to Milner Square in Islington and from there I fuelled up at the BP (£1.06 per litre, scandalous!!) in Goodsway. I drove down the newly opened Pancras Road and ranked at Kings Cross where I got a fare to Bethnal Green, a stripper going to the Metropolis Club and then her friend went onto Hackney. I drove all the way back to Victoria without getting a fare and ended up at the back of a full taxi rank. It took ages to reach the head of the feeder rank and I was tempted to pull off and head for home but thought it better to wait a while longer. There was only one cab in front of me and he was approached by a dodgy looking character. After what looked like a refusal from the cab driver (a no-no on a rank unless you imediately pull off) the guy walked back to me. Now, if the front cab had driven off at this point then it would’ve been my job but he chose to sit there, which is looked on as an insult to the cabby behind..........me!! As the Prospective Passenger approached me I lowered the window down a few inches and said :
Me: If he ain’t doing it then neither am I.
PP: Why not?
Me: Because it’s his job and he shouldn’t be brooming stuff he doesn’t want.
PP: So what am I supposed to do?
Me: Go and tell him he has to do it. Where d’you want to go?
PP: Brixton (a crap area)
Me: Well it’s his job so he has to take you.
The guy walked back to the front cab, had a few more words with the driver and then the cab sped off leaving the guy with a vacant looked on his face and staring in my direction. Not being in the mood for any bullshit on this cold night I too drove off. As I looked in my rear view I could see the next few cabs pull off as well. I guess we all had the same gut-feeling that this guy was a wrongun. I wonder if he got home.
Having done about 30 minutes “bird” and ending up empty handed I decided to call it a night and drove the few miles home with my Hire light on but never managed to trap another job. I’ll have to get out much earlier tomorrow.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I’ve had a few more problems with the cab over the last few weeks. The red battery light has been staying alight and then after a while going out. I checked the fan belt and it was tight so could only assume that the alternator was on the way out. But after hearing a recent exchange in the office at my garage where the manager refused to replace the alternator of another cab because it was still charging I decided to say nothing. One day last week I came out to work and the engine barely started. After driving around for a few hours the battery light went out and the battery charged itself so all was well, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the thing let me down.
So on Saturday morning I was driving my daughter to her friend’s house when the red light flashed on and off a good few times and finally settled for “on” permanently. This was also accompanied by a weird noise, prompting me to pull over and investigate further. On raising the bonnet I could see straight away that the fanbelt had come away from the pulley and would either need tightening or replacing. As I was minutes away from dropping Katie at her friend’s I decided to do that first and then find a motor spares shop in the nearby High Street. I found one almost straight away and went in to see if they had the belt I would need. The computer told them what I would need but the belt they brought out seemed too small. They asked if I could bring in the old belt. As It was still in one piece and attached to the cab I had to cut it off with my trusty 8 in one utility tool that goes everywhere with me. They matched the belt but the one they gave me wouldn’t fit so I had to try another three different belts before I got the right one. I was quite pleased for once because I normally get caught out by not having the right tools for the job. I had a lever and the correct spanners so I was able to fit the new fanbelt to the cab outside the shop in West Green Road, North London. As I started the engine the red light was still there. As Dick Dastardly would say, “Drat!! And double-drat!!!” Finally snapping and getting the hump with it all I floored the accelerator hoping to blow the fucking engine up. It wouldn’t blow up. Apparently these Nissan 2.7 engines will run without oil in them so I’d have a job trying to blow one up with oil in it. The red light did eventually go out so I would have needed the fanbelt anyway. The alternator problem would have to be addressed as and when it failed me. Which, as it happens, I didn’t have to wait too long for. I came out to work at around Midday today. As I turned the key………click, click, and nothing. I knew what had to be done. I drove my sons car over next to mine and jump started it with my leads and drove straight to the garage. It was like a morgue in there. No radios playing, no banter. Jim, the genial Irishman, was away on holiday so the owner was in the office. I told him the problem and he said that an alternator would have to be ordered and delivered. That’s a two to three hour wait straight away plus they were short-staffed and all the mechanics were busy so it would take even longer. I felt my blood pressure rising but tried to stay calm. I’d had Sunday off and was really looking to work for four or five hours this afternoon as I have a darts match tonight but it wasn’t looking too good. I settled down to wait in the office and was kept amused as various regular customers arrived with different problems only to be told that nobody was available to help them. Some of them took it badly and threatened to take there business elsewhere to which the owner could only shrug his shoulders and say “What can I do?” I spent a few hours in that office and had a very deep chat with the owner covering a multitude of topics and came away extremely enlightened on a few subjects. As I picked up the newly repaired cab the mechanic informed me that he’d stopped working on another cab especially to fix mine. I thought to my self “Bollocks did you, you did it because you know I’m a good tipper” and true to my word handed over a crisp five-pound note and drove out into the street. The battery was almost flat so it would need a run to charge it up.
It was now too late to go to work so I picked my son up and we drove up the road to buy dinner. He went in as I waited in the cab to keep it running. I eventually switched it off at home and fired it up straight away to test it and it seemed OK.
Hopefully it will be OK after a long cold night on the drive but in any case my son’s car is there for those sorts of emergencies
Monday, October 22, 2007
My Xeta system failed over the weekend and I was unable to do any work on it. The external GPS receiver cacked out so the PDA had no way of knowing what area I was in. I rang the technicians at Station Road in Tufnell Park but they obviously don’t work the weekends. I left a message on the answer phone and was woken up at 9am this morning by them with instructions on how to reset the GPS. I had to get in behind the glove box and pull a fuse out, wait a few minutes and replace the fuse. The GPS reset itself with ridiculous ease. It’s easy when you know how! Had I known this on Friday night I could have done some work on it. Still, I’ll know for next time. It also saves me a trip over there today and gives me a few more hours in bed.
I made it to the cab garage last Friday. It’s always painful parting with cab rent on a weekly basis so multiply that by three and imagine the agony I was in. I never hung about for any banter as I had stuff to do. One thing I did find out was that the camera that flashed me on Mile End Road (I was caught at 36mph in a 30 zone), whilst I was dealing with a female passenger who thought I’d missed her turning, did actually have film in it and that I am now (or will soon be) the proud owner of twelve penalty points and an impending 3 to 6 month driving ban. Lovely!! I’m still waiting for the paper work for the one that flashed me outside Holloway Womens Prison and until that arrives I am still on six points. I’ll try and string it out for a few months and hopefully some of my earlier points will have expired. One of the guys at the garage told me that in any case I probably wouldn’t receive a ban but I would be required to attend some sort of driving course. I should still contact my trade organisation, The LTDA (Licensed Taxi Drivers Association) as they offer free legal help to all members and could possibly save me a lot of grief.
Since I got my new Nokia n95 phone I have been using one of those bluetooth in-the-ear handsfree thingys that I despise (Motorola H700 £40 in the carphone Warehouse). It’s quite a sensitive bit of equipment and the main button, which is multi-functional, often depresses whilst the item is in my pocket, sending all sorts of commands to the phone. The thing it does the most is to activate the voice dialling, which then waits for you to speak. It interprets external noises and taxi vibrations as commands and then searches the phone for likely candidates. If you’re not paying attention you could go through the whole phone book and never know. Working mainly at night, the phone has been calling various people who have been answering from their beds, probably cursing me and then hanging up, all without my knowledge. I know for a fact that I did call my nephew’s phone in Mallorca at 2 in the morning as I saw the call in the log. (Sorry if I woke you guys up). So what I was leading up to was that I purchased another bluetooth from eBay, which works in a different way, and have now been waiting for several weeks. The seller has informed me that the delay is due to the recent postal strike but I have received other goods purchased much later. I think another message to him is now due. Another problem I have been having with the device is that it chafes the top of my ear so I have been removing it and storing it in the part of the cab door used to pull it shut. On several occasions whilst getting in and out of the cab it has fallen, without my knowledge, out of it’s space and either under my seat or out of the cab altogether and into the road. So I was sitting in outside Kebab Kid in New Kings Road last night (or early this morning at 12.30am) eating a large chicken shawarma and taramasalata and pondering my life when my phone rang. I automatically reached for the handsfree device in the door and found the space empty. I had moved the cab from outside the shop to a few yards away and automatically turned to look at where I had been parked. It was dark but I could just make out a dark bump on the tarmac and knew it was my bluetooth and if it hadn’t already been flattened by the cars on this busy road it soon would be. I jumped out of the cab with my kebab in hand and raced back the few yard to retrieve the device. By some miracle it was untouched. I think part of me was hoping that it had been flattened as I just haven’t been able to take to it and eagerly await the arrival of my new and better one from ebay.
(At this point my electric ran out and I thought I’d lost all that is written above. Phew!! Thank God for Windows XP. Win 98 would have wiped the lot)
On the work front, all is well. It’s simply a matter of getting in to the cab and driving away. Sometimes after dinner I go upstairs for a nap and never want to surface for work. A few days this week I have instructed the kids to nag me out to work and they have duly obliged. From 8pm onwards I get shouted at and insulted by them (all with my consent) until I eventually get up. Once out of the door there’s no problem but a few times I have been nagged from 8pm to 10pm and those two hours make a big difference in the takings.
On Saturday night England’s rugby team lost the World Cup Final to South Africa. I managed to sleep the whole way through it and never started work till 10pm. The centre of town was awash with jubilant South Africans and it was one of the most profitable four hours I’ve ever done. The last job of that particular night found me driving homewards through Camden Town. My light was off and I was just hoping for someone to approach me at the traffic lights and ask to go my way. A big built Aussie guy with a Ben Sherman short-sleeved shirt (I knew this as my son has an identical one) approached me and asked if I would take him to Shepherds Bush. It’s sort of over my way so I agreed but he wanted a price.
Him: How much you looking for mate?
Me: As much as I can get.
Him: I reckon twenty-five quid’ll do it.
It would probably go nearer to thirty but as I was finishing I didn’t mind.
Me: Ok mate but I want the money up front.
I’m getting good at asking for the money up front. For years I wouldn’t ask for it and some journeys have ended with the passengers doing a runner.
Him: Ok but I want to stop at a petrol station to get some phone credit so will that cover it?
Off we went. I found a garage in Wellington Road and he jumped out and joined the queue. He was one of these guys who can start a conversation with anyone. There were a couple of blonde chicks in the line ordering all sorts of food items and the attendant was running backwards and forwards getting all their stuff. The guy started talking to them and soon had them in fits of laughter. The whole process took much longer than anticipated and I was getting irate at being kept waiting on a fixed price. The guy was now talking to anyone and everyone and messing about with the six-packs of Evian water on the forecourt. In the end I honked the horn and shouted “Come on!!” “Keep your hair on mate” he said as he got back in the cab. “There’s no need to take the piss mate we’re on a fixed price here not the meter,” I growled. We were on our way again and he recharged his phone with the credit and proceeded to ring everyone he knew to talk about the rugby. From what I could hear he had wanted England to win, which I though unusual. The Aussies must have a bigger rivalry with the South Africans. He talked all the way to the Bush and had me drop him outside Belushi’s on the Green. I had put the meter on in Camden and it now read £36 so he’d gotten a bargain ride home. I must remember not to do that in future.
Check Back Soon
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I’ve just been getting on with getting on with it these last few weeks. I’ve worked most nights since my last post and have just about caught up with everything that went to crap because of my holiday.
On the home front I have been trying to trap a mouse that recently shit the life out of me as it ran past my legs one night. Them fuckers really know how to hide. Anyway I set a fresh trap with a nice chunk of English Cheddar and guess what? I caught it. I took some photos for posterity and will just leave it so that anyone who wants to see them can click HERE and HERE and HERE. If you’re squeamish then don’t click.
My son Danny drove up to Birmingham in the Midlands with his cousins and a friend today to watch Monday Night WWE Raw. They were queuing in the line when Hacksaw Jim Duggan and a few others casually strolled past them prompting a reaction from the crowd.
I recently downloaded the last nine episodes of the Sopranos and have already watched five of them. The series has become quite dark now as it draws to an end and I know that some major players die soon, I’ll probably know who by tonight.
I hate rugby but I’ll be watching on Saturday night as England take on South Africa in the final of the Rugby World Cup in Paris. We are the current holders having won it four years ago thanks to our talisman Jonny Wilkinson who is also doing the business this time around.
I took the cab in to have the exhaust repaired the day after it snapped. The rent was due but I told them that I wasn’t able to earn it on account of the said problem and it was agreed I could go in the next day to pay the £200. That was on the 3rd of October and I haven’t been there since. I now owe £600 and have been screening all my phonecalls. What a way to live. I should have it all by end of duty on Tuesday night (tonight) and will be able to show my face on Wednesday.
My mate Chris finally got fitted for Xeta last Friday and has enjoyed a job home every night. He too likes to do the London Underground work and so far has finished his shift with jobs out to Carpenders Park, Harrow & Wealdstone and tonight finished with a job to Northolt.
I started my shift at 7.30 tonight and worked for seven straight hours. I had to fill up in the garage at Sainsbury’s at Ladbroke Grove as over the last few days part of Maida Vale has been closed off due to repairs after a burst water main.
I ended up at Notting Hill Gate and my first job took me down to Clapham North. After five more jobs I dropped off at Onslow Gardens and went to the Gloucester Road Starbucks for a Triple Venti Latte and a slice of Rocky Road. I drove round to the South Kensington Rank to consume my coffee and cake and who should pull in behind me but Old Titanic himself. We had a few moments together messing about with our PDA’s trying to get a lock on a wireless signal but could only manage to get the Pelham Hotel Homepage which is totally unexciting. Seconds later and I was off again, this time with two Scottish Lasses to the City Inn Hotel in John Islip Street, Westminster. As I pulled away after dropping them off the doorman from Shepherd’s Restaurant was out in the road looking for a cab. Five people got in and I took them down to The Goose pub in Clapham Park Road to continue their drinking binge. I made it all the way back to Victoria Station before I got another job and this time I was off to Whipps Cross in North East London. I was on the phone to Chris and we were discussing which would be the best way to do the journey. I opted for the Embankment, Angel, Dalston Lane, Lee Bridge Road to Whipps Cross while he said he would have driven along the Embankment all the way to the A12 and the Green Man Roundabout. No wonder I call him “Sad Route Bill” sometimes. I did ten more decent jobs after that one and decided to call it a night. As I was driving from Hyde Park Corner into Park Lane I saw a group of people with luggage waving at me. There were six of them each with a case and hand luggage. They asked if I could take six people and I told them it would be a tight squeeze. I managed to get all six people and all six cases plus their hand luggage into the cab and there wasn’t a cubic millimetre of space left as we crawled away from the pick up, the cab groaning and protesting until it had picked up speed. I took them to a hotel in Sussex Gardens and as I arrived a few of the local working girls looked curiously on. I drove round to Paddington Station but it was devoid of any work as it was already quite late. Even Caroline had gone home!! (I got out of the cab and had a chat with her a few nights ago so that’s how I now know her name)
Check back soon.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from Spain and I still haven’t really got back into the swing of it yet. I’ve had four or five half days, maybe even quarter days off and financially it’s starting to hurt.
My football team’s fantastic start to the season has also affected me by way of keeping me in until 10pm during the week on nights when we play and the game is broadcast via their website. Still, it’s a small sacrifice to see the boys doing so well, long may it continue.
I’ve had a few decent rides both cash and account. A guy asked me to take him to a destination near Brighton but when I quoted what I thought would be a fair price he shook his head and ran off. I was doing “bird” on the rank at Canary Wharf one day last week when my Xeta terminal offered me a job. Being in “Going Home” mode I was able to view the destination where normally you wouldn’t know where you were going until accepting the job. Instead of a name there was a postcode. Destination was DA17 and pickup was North Greenwich Station right next to the O2 Millenium Dome (pictured in a previous post). You only get 30 seconds to accept or decline and then the job goes to the next cab. Not having familiarized myself fully with all the suburban postcodes I never had a clue where DA17 could possibly be and got it excitedly in to my head that DA was the code for Datchet near Windsor. A very nice ride to a very nice part of the country. The bleeper was counting down the seconds and I knew I only had seconds left to make my mind up. I hit the ACCEPT button and started scrolling through the job details. Chris was on the phone to me at the time and we were running through all the possibilities of where I would be heading. All of a sudden my heart sank, as the written destination appeared further down the page. So much for Datchet. The destination was Belvedere in Kent, completely the opposite direction to where I wanted to go and I had to drive a good few miles to the pickup. The DA stood for Dartford. I pulled off the rank at Canary Wharf and made my way towards the Blackwall Tunnel. There was some sort of night works going on (when is there never?) and the traffic was backed up. I’d started with 40 minutes to get to the destination and had just about used them all up by the time I arrived at North Greenwich. The meter can only show £4 by the booked time so for 35 minutes I wasn’t earning any money. To cut a long story short the passenger wasn’t there as she was en route in another taxi. After a few calls backwards and forwards she arrived forty minutes late and I got her to Belvedere safely but then found myself dead in the water with no chance of a fare back to town. I made a mental note to write down all the relevant postcodes and have them handy the next time my terminal throws me a job with only the postcode.
I could possibly be out of a job in the next few weeks. Having recently received another three points on my license making it 9 now I have been taking extra care to watch my speed and not to jump red light. But whilst working last night a passenger complaining that I had missed her turning distracted me. Because I was dealing with the complaint I wasn’t watching my speed. I had picked her up in Commercial Road and was told to take her to Bow Quarter, a gated community in East London. Whilst driving along Mile End Road she suddenly pipes up. I was talking to Chris at the time so I missed her first words. She started flapping so I opened the partition and said “What’s up?” “You’ve missed the turning,” she informs me. We were still about a mile from her destination so I started cajoling her.
Me: “Are you sure about that?”
Her: “yes, you’ve driven past it”
Me: “I don’t think so”
Her: “Yes look I wanted that road there”
Me: “You want Bow Quarter right?
Me: “Well we haven’t even gone past Mile End Station yet”
A quizzical look came over her as she tried ascertaining through her intoxicated haze just where the hell she was. Realizing she’d made a mistake she let me get on with my job and said no more, not even sorry. With my mind on thinking of something more to say I was brought back to the present with a FLASH followed by another FLASH. “Fuck it” I hissed into the phone to Chris who’d heard the whole conversation. “It’s all over, I just got double-flashed again” “Sad” he sympathized with me. We’ll just have to wait and see.
With each shift I get a bit more into the swing. I bought a Nokia N95 on ebay yesterday and paid with Paypal. That basically means I have three to four days to find the money so with that in mind I started nice and early this evening. I needed diesel so I drove over to Sainsbury’s in Ladbroke Grove to put £20 worth in the tank. From there I made it all the way to Kensington Church Street before I trapped my first job down to Flood Street in Chelsea. I nice little flurry of jobs ensued after that. Six jobs back to back bringing me nicely up to mealtime at the Royal Oak Taxi Center with Chris. I had my usual, a nice plate of Spaghetti Bolognese and a bowl of Parmesan Cheese. I’ve always loved lot’s of Parmesan on my pasta and have been known to carry my own personal supply just in case some of these establishments don’t have any, and many don’t, which I think is sacrilege.
Once fed and watered we both drove down to Paddington Station to queue for our next job. For the last few months there has been a lady who sits at the head of the rank on a little ledge. If you’re unlucky enough to catch her eye she’ll tell you her whole life story or whatever she’s been doing on any particular day. I got caught for the first time quite a few months ago and had to endure a 15 minute ear bashing as there were no passengers. Now I always keep my window shut and look the other way while she desperately tries to get my attention. She’s there almost every night. Does anybody know what her story is?
There’s also a new guy there who seems to be there at all hours. Chris and me have named him “James Brown” on account of his snazzy attire. He directs the passengers to the appropriate taxi when the marshals have finished work at 10pm. He was there a few nights ago and I sneaked a picture of him with his shoes off rubbing his feet.
She was also there and I took one of "her" on her phone. We’ll have to think up a suitable name for her too.(Since found out she's called Caroline.)
The last job (I hadn’t planned on it being the last job) of the night found me on the Wilton Road feeder rank to Victoria Station. My old mate the beggar was there. I hadn’t seen him for a few weeks and nearly never recognized him as he had a new coat. He must be doing OK. As per usual he avoided me and went to the cab behind who also ignored him. After 5 minutes I was on point and a middle aged American and two ladies walked up to me.
Him: We wanna go to 67 Belgrave Road, The Sydney Hotel. It’s just around the corner and shouldn’t be much.
Me: OK (wincing at the shittiness of the job and turning the meter on)
Him: (Having opened the cab door and seen the meter on the £2.20 flagfall) £2.20? Why is it £2.20? Why not zero?
Me: Because it’s £2.20
Him: But why?
Me: Are we gonna have an argument about it? If the hotel is just around the corner why don’t you walk?
Him: I just might do that.
Me: Well it’s no skin off my nose mate.
Him: Yeah well I still wanna know why it’s £2.20 and not zero.
Me: Is it zero when you get into a cab in New York or is there a minimum?
Him: Yeah it’s zero.
Me: Bollocks is it. It’s at least $1.40 (am I right anyone?)
I did some more explaining and he slammed the door and I could see him talking to the cab behind.
Another guy approached me and asked for a road in Peckham. For me it was still another shit job but as I was on the point of the rank it was a job that can’t be refused. As I drove out of the station and crossed in to Vauxhall Bridge Road I thought I could hear something scraping under the cab. Not completely sure it was my cab and not one of the other vehicles around me I continued. After all the surrounding cars had driven ahead I could still hear it so knew I had a problem. I continued on my way and managed to get the guy to his house. Once clear I pulled over and had a look under the cab and my worst fears were confirmed. The exhaust had snapped and was hanging down scraping on the road. It always happens when you’re miles from home doesn’t it? Nothing for it but to get under the cab and try to separate the broken bit . I had a few tools in the boot and also a can of WD40 lubricant, which I sprayed all over the rubber bungs. It came away with a little effort and I put it in the back of the cab and made my way home.
Just when I was getting into my shift that goes and happens, what a bummer. So now I will be forced to go to the garage tomorrow and get it fixed. There’s no way I’m paying the £200 rent that’s due and hopefully some sort of re-imbursement for my lost nights work will be forthcoming. But I won’t hold my breath ay?
Check back soon.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
My last work night was Sunday the 9th of September and I had to leave the cab at the garage. Chris of Titanic Struggles had been working the same shift and agreed to meet me there and take me home to get my luggage and then drop me off at my parents house in Harrow.
I emptied the cab of serious amounts of crap that had accumulated over the last year and finally I put the front of the radio-cassette together with the keys into an envelope and posted it through the letterbox. As we were driving away I realized I hadn’t removed one final thing from the arm-rest compartment – my wallet, with about £500 inside. I could have cried. Worst-case scenario was that the window would be broken and left overnight and I would inform the garage by phone. Before I did that I went back to the letterbox and stuck my hand inside. To my amazement and joy the envelope hadn’t gone to the bottom and I managed to pull it out – almost ripping it. Drama over and I finally came to terms that I was on holiday.
To spare you all the boring details let’s just say that the holiday went well and I did plenty of relaxing, drinking, eating, driving and seeing friends and family.
There is one incident of note, which I will tell you about. Two days after arriving I set out in my hired Ford Fiesta to find a pub that would be showing the England v Russia game live. I found quite a few places and settled for a place on the outskirts of Torrevieja. It was a small community called Chaparral and the bar was called Boz’s bar. Now I’m not a big drinker any more on account of driving for a living. But I have been known to let my hair down (metaphorically – as I have none) from time to time. I started drinking pints of San Miguel and by the end of the game, which England won, I was rat-arsed. I was getting concerned calls from my kids pleading with me not to drive the car back to where I was staying with my Mum. I remember very little of these conversations and have since been told that I was talking pure bollocks down the phone. I remember even less leaving the bar and getting in to the car and flaking out. Being a left-hand drive car I must have thought I was back in London as I got into the right hand side and promptly nodded off with the door wide open and my phone on the dash for anyone to steal. All I remember is someone shaking me and telling me in Spanish that I had been there for two hours and was in danger of getting caught by the police. So, probably still way over the legal limit, I drove the few miles home, the streets were empty as it was almost 2am and then had to endure the wrath of my Mum who was worried sick. All in all a very stupid thing to do but I think I can be allowed one stupid act every ten years don’t you think?
The flight back to England was delayed an hour and my son, who was picking us up got lost on the M1 whilst we waited in the freezing cold for him to collect us.
The following morning I had to collect my cab and waited on my street for a Licensed Taxi to drive along. After twenty minutes of waiting I got fed up and walked the few hundred yards to the nearest miniscab office and was picked up immediately and transported to my destination by a very talkative Somalian guy at a cost of £12.
The cab was waiting for me as I entered the garage but so was a nasty surprise. Jim, the genial Irishman, informed me that I had been photographed running a red light in Parkhurst Road and that another three penalty points would be added to my license, making it nine points in total. Only three more to go for a six-month ban and loss of my livelihood – I’m really going to have to take care now. I paid them £90 for three days rental and drove home. I never came out later on as there were a million and one things that needed doing at home but over the next two nights I managed to earn the best part of a double-bottle.
Whilst driving up St. James’s Street yesterday evening the doorman of Le Caprice was out there looking for a cab for one of the punters. When the guy got in he asked me for the private terminal at Gatwick. Welcome home London Cabby. Chris was on the phone to me at the time and was quite gutted at my luck, as his evening wasn’t going fantastically well. Once down at Gatwick it took a while to find his destination as I only ever take regular passengers to the North and South terminals. I opted for the South Terminal turn off and guess what? It was the wrong one. We got stuck in solid traffic, which added at least a fiver to the already high meter. His terminal was nearer to the North Terminal and as we arrived his pilot was there to greet him and almost bowed at him as if he was royalty. The fare was £101 exactly and he gave me six twenties and waited for the change. I gave him one of the twenties back as I couldn’t be arsed to give all my change away and he just shrugged and walked off.
I only did a few jobs tonight as one of them went straight past my front door and I couldn’t resist the urge to go in. It’ll still be there for me tomorrow, and the next day.
Check back soon.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
My Dad had an appointment at the Hammersmith Hospital today and I had to drive him over there from Harrow. He’d made a remark about being short of breath to a nurse and the next thing he knows is he’s having blood tests, chest x-rays, heart x-rays, ECG’s the works. He’ll get the results in 8 weeks.
My daughter went back to school today. She recently passed all he GCSE’s and decided to study for another year.
My eldest son starts a new job on Monday. It’s an IT based job at a well-known diamond company in central London.
And finally, wait for it, (drum roll and fanfare of trumpets), my other son Michael starts a job, also on Monday. After months of bad luck he has finally used some family influence to secure a post in the warehouse section of a superstore. It’s only temporary for three months but it may lead to something else.
I have been galvanized into action after working out what I will need to put by whilst I’m away. I’m about a week short of reaching my target so a few bills will have to be held back until I return. And I’m sorting out a “rubber dub dub” from a friend of mine who’s offered to help out, ain’tcha Golden Bollocks eXtraordinaire?
I started later today on account of the early start to take my Dad to the hospital. After I got home I had a few more hours sleep and started at around nine-ish. My Orange mobile signal was non-existent and I came back home to get a spare phone and check online if there were any problems with the network. Did anyone else have trouble with Orange on Wednesday evening?
Work was steady and there were only a few twats to report on.
An elderly European twat, I mean lady, from Mayfair to Sussex Gdns via Queensway to drop someone off. The1st passenger gets out and I head for the next drop. I work my way round to Craven Road and decide to take the right into Gloucester Terrace. Then all hell breaks loose in the back.
“What are you doing, this is wrong, this is not fair?” She pipes up screaming and banging on some part of the interior. I think to myself “Oh fuck, we’ve got one”
It’s what I call a nothing decision. You can get to the same destination by going one way or the other and it costs the same.
I remain calm whilst she’s going doolaly.
“I’m not a tourist, I’ve lived in London for twenty years and what you’re doing is wrong.” She continues ranting. I try and explain to her that one way is as good as the other but she seems intent of making an issue out of it.
She’s getting her knickers in a twist for absolutely nothing. It’s actually quite comical.
“Madam……Madam……..Madam” I try and get a word in but she completely gone. Time to switch personalities a little.
“Madam!!!” I scream out. Anyone passing would have to wonder what the hell was going on inside the cab. I seem to have got through to her and she stops to hear me out. “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Just calm down, relax yourself, you’ll be home in seconds”. And literally seconds afterwards we arrive at her house. You’ll notice that I never swore at her because inspite of all that was going on I could still see that she was a “Lady”. It did the trick and she did indeed calm down and stated that she was tired and had been on the go all day but I still told her off for unjustifiably “losing it” with me. She apologized and tipped a pound extra and that was that.
Towards the end of the shift I found that I was stuck on £20 short of my target so decided to try my luck on the South Kensington rank. The nightclub, Boujis, located about 50 meters away, was open for business and there were lots of nice people milling about. What do I get? Twat number two. A drunk mess who wants Earls Court, not a fantastic ride at the best of times. Then he says he needs to go via a food outlet. Then he tries to make conversation with me but I’m not really in the mood for his drunken ramblings. He’s younger than me by a good few years yet he talks like an old Etonian.
Him: “So Old Boy, how’s you’re night been?”
Me: “Not great, if the truth be told”
Him: “Splendid, splendid” he’s obviously misheard me.
Me: “What d’you want to eat, there’s a McDonalds in Earls Court Road we can stop at”
Him: “No, no, no. I don’t eat that shite. I want something completely unhealthy like a kebab”
There was a kebab shop at the top of Earls Court road and we stopped there. He got out and paid me. As I gave him the change he said, “Well bowled Old Boy” and waved me off. Strange one that.
I drove down the remainder of the road and headed towards Gloucester Road where I knew Opal would probably yield one last job. It did and it was going to, of all places, my street, only he was in the posh bit. We had an interesting conversation about advertising (I can talk bollocks with the best of them if it means getting a good tip) and he had lots of ideas he was trying to sell to various agencies. I wished him luck and headed back towards the Tesco on Sutherland Avenue to get my daughter her lunch for school later on today.
Only four more working days to go. I’ll start packing in a few days and leaving things as prepared as they can be for my lot here to get through the 11 days without me. I may well make one final post before I go so keep checking. If it’s not there by Sunday night then it won’t be there until I return sometime after September the 21st.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Admiralty Arch Today
The Nose View 1
The Nose View 2
Work was pretty brisk tonight after a slow start. Once again my mate Chris had a blinder whilst I was a good 30 - 35% behind him. We stopped for a coffee at Marylebone Station around 10.30 to compare notes and then we both drove onto the rank and within minutes we both had jobs to (him) Swiss Cottage and Gospel Oak (me).
The entire evening was pretty uneventful except for when I picked up a scruffy young man from the bus stop in Rosebery Avenue. He asked to go to Putney and promptly nodded off. All the way there I was telling myself that I should've asked for money up front and was getting all worked up. I was convinced that I was about to get knocked (not paid) and I even rang Chris so that he could witness the knocking, albeit via the telephone. I decided to wake him by shouting at the top of my voice under the pre-text of asking him if he might need a cashpoint enroute. It took a few loud shouts to wake him and I then asked him if we needed to stop at a cashpoint. He said he was OK for money and the manner with which he said it put me a little more at ease. Once we arrived in his street he pulled out a wallet stuffed with every kind of note. He was about to offer me a fifty and then changed his mind for two twenties instead. The fare was £31.20 and that's all I got but I was happy to get paid at all. All I can say is never judge a book by it's cover.......but we do don't we?
My last job took me out to Richmond and then I made my way home via a Tesco Express to buy a few bits for the kids.
Well it's now September the first and I go away on the tenth so only nine days to go and I've got a hell of a lot to do before then.
Check back soon.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
On the road
The O2 at night
My friend of many years, Chris of Titanic Struggles, has decided he wants to try nights for a while. He likes the fact that you can fly around London without traffic and claims that the money earned is “money for old rope”. Wait till he’s had a few pukers and losers without money, he’ll be back on days in a flash. We were in constant contact tonight via comms link, that’s a mobile phone to you lot. He had a decent night all things considered and his takings were twenty percent better than mine considering we did similar hours.
I started around an hour and a half after him and finished an hour after he had finished. It took me a while to get going after my first job from Paddington Station and I knew it wasn’t going to be a great night, well it was only Wednesday.
I was on the rank at Victoria when a guy started walking down the line. “Click” went my central locking. He wasn’t too steady on his feet, infact he looked rat-arsed drunk. He got to my window and asked if I took Credit Cards. I did, but I wanted to know a little bit more before I agreed to take him. He wanted to go to Twickenham in South West London and he’d give me a nice big tip. A forty-pound job I thought, plus possibly a fiver tip, what the hell? “Yeah jump in mate”. He started complaining about why all cabs don’t accept Credit Cards and I had to explain that as we were all freelancers and that it wasn’t obligatory to subscribe to radio circuits that only about twenty percent of London Taxis had the necessary equipment to process Credit Cards. I don’t think he gave a shit for my explanation and proceeded to nod off. The ride was uneventful until he awoke at the St. Margaret’s Roundabout and told me to turn after the Stoop. He then said something that always gets my back up. “Was that me or you that just farted”. I knew it wasn’t me because I’d decided a few years back to never fart with passengers in the cab as they (the farts) invariably end up traveling backwards. “Well you should know if you just farted mate” I said indignantly “but I’m fucking sure it wasn’t me,” I continued. He then went off on a rant saying who’s ever the fart belonged to must have had Chicken Curry (definitely not me as I had steak). He’d probably farted in his sleep and woke up engulfed in the fumes. I should have thrown a match in and ignited the fumes then we’d have known who the culprit was. He then started directing me to his road and after a few turns we arrived. Out comes the American Express Corporate Card. The equipment I use to process credit cards is the XDA II Pocket PC that is also my Xeta terminal for work. Everything has to be entered manually and then authorized by the control room. The only down side is that credit card jobs can only be processed at the end of the journey so by the time a problem arises it often to late to do anything about it. The first attempt came back “Invalid Card” as did the second. Having never had a card declined since being with Xeta I’d almost given him the card back and let him walk off. I had to tell him “Sorry mate the cards no good”. “It’s a business card, I use it all the time mate,” he answered back. “Well I’ve tried it twice and it’s not having it, you’ll have to pay cash”. I started getting annoyed at his body language and was preparing to spring (yes, me, spring) out of the cab and punch his lights out. He produced a personal card from his wallet and I had difficulty in reading the worn numbers to manually enter them but eventually managed to enter them. I gave him the receipt to sign and he entered a £5 tip which made me feel a bit of a dick for getting annoyed at him but I made a mental note to not accept credit rides from drunk arseholes unless I can get the money up front or somehow verify their cards first. (I think I could’ve done it over the phone but never thought I’d need to.
As I was driving back in to town this message came up on my terminal and brought home to me the dangers of going about one's business.
On the way back in to town I passed by Hammersmith and trapped a job out to Popes Lane in Gunnersbury. For some reason I started driving like a maniac and had the Asian guy outside his front door within a few minutes. He passed a twenty through the partition and said “you’re an amazing driver” to which I thanked him for his kind words.
The work had dried up by now and I had to drive all the way back to Victoria before I got my next fare. After a twenty-minute wait I ended up with a short hop to Vauxhall Bridge. Back at Victoria and another twenty minute wait for a marginally better job to Kennington. As I was pulling away from that one a guy hailed me in Kennington park Road and asked for Canonbury Grove. He was drunk or high or something and was soon out for the count. It took several loud shouts from me to rouse him and a few more minutes for him to realize what planet he was on but he eventually paid up and gave me a decent tip as well. I was now ready to go home but kept my light on all the way through the Angel, Pentonville Road, Kings Cross and Euston Road.
It was desperately quiet and there wasn’t a hand in sight. Oh well, tomorrow should be a good day.
12 Days to go.
Check back soon
Sunday, August 26, 2007
After my trip to Manchester last week the cab has really been misbehaving. The gearbox has been leaking constantly and several large puddles of fluid have formed on my drive. The engine has been emitting serious amounts of black smoke and I have had several cabbies and motorists pull up next to me to tell me what I already know. A sign of how bad things are with the gear box really hit home when I picked up four large men on one particular night and struggled to climb Muswell Hill. I ended up putting the cab into first gear and praying it would make it. By the Friday just gone I’d had enough and drove to my garage. £400 rent was owed and I had to overdraw the money from a cashpoint as I never had it on me. The owner was in the office as I arrived and I told him my problem expecting some sort of bullshit. He got a mechanic straight onto it and the mechanic took it for a road test to see what he was dealing with. When he came back he said to me “D’you want the good news or the bad news?” “Go on” I said. “The smoke problem I can sort out but the gearbox is fucked. I found bits of clutch in the fluid”. “Lovely” I joked. The owner was standing there hearing this too and started muttering something about a thousand pounds under his breath. It was decided to make an appointment for the gearbox to be overhauled at a garage in East London and they would call me with the exact time and date, probably next Wednesday. Here’s hoping they can put things right for once and for all.
As my holiday draws ever nearer the urgency to work harder increases, but it still isn’t at the critical stage as I still go home all to easily. Now that the football season has started I find my self staying in to watch games when I should be out. The last ten days will probably see me “wake up” and get my finger out.
Friday night was, as expected, extremely busy. I found myself working in and around north London. I would get all the way in only to trap a job back out to places like The Angel, Stamford Hill and even did one as far as Woodford.
This weekend is the Notting Hill Carnival and preparations were well under way this evening for Europe's biggest street party. Many streets are closed off during this time and traffic is always chaotic. I will try and avoid the area if at all possible.
Hopefully there’ll be something a bit more “meaty” to blog about in a few days so I’ll leave you all with that to look forward too.
16 days to go.
Check back soon.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I went on a road trip to Manchester yesterday with my daughter, my sister and my niece.
My uncle, Joe Silmon, who lives there, was celebrating his 70th birthday and family members from all parts of the country converged on his flat in the Longsight area of the city. He has been a jazz musician most of his life and is quite well known in the North West and although I’m not a jazz lover I did enjoy the two hour set he played with his band mates. After an early start and an evening of celebration I then had to drive for another four hours back to London and never hit the pillow until 5am this Sunday morning.
These last few weeks have seen me working away as normal trying to get money together for my forthcoming holiday in Spain.
Whilst sitting on the South Kensington rank recently an elderly lady slowly approached me and asked to be taken to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital on the Fulham Road. As the rank is positioned in the middle of the road there is no kerb so it is harder for some people to climb into the cab. This lady was having some trouble and I offered to give her a hand, which she accepted. I got in to the back through the other door and suggested that I pull her in but she said it would be easier if I got behind her and pushed her up by her backside. Reluctant to do this, I checked with her that it was ok to “touch her there” to which she consented. Nothing for it but to place my hands on her mushy butt-cheeks and give her a gentle shove. The seat of her leggings were soaking wet and as I turned away I had a sniff to make sure it wasn’t piss. Well, wouldn’t anyone? I couldn’t decide whether it was piss or whether she’d been sitting on a wet bench somewhere but as soon as I got back in my seat I took a couple of wet-wipes and washed my hands. Her exit from the cab was much easier and she gave me a two-pound tip. Once away from there I pulled over and wiped the seat with some McDonald's tissues and sprayed a bit of air freshener and nobody was any the wiser.
It’s Thursday night and I’m number two on the rank at Victoria. An enormous bloke accompanied by a little old lady approach the front cab. The guy has to bend down to speak to the driver. The driver then shakes his head and roars off. I’m next. “How much to Highbury mate?” he says to me. “About twenty to twenty five” I reply. This guy is massive and he has an enormous belly. His T-shirt has ridden up over his belly and he made no attempt to pull it back down. He looks in-bred and above all like a complete loser. The old dear with him looks like she’s had a hard life but keeps quiet. My Spidey-sense says “No, don’t do it”. My mouth says “OK mate jump in” but my brain is saying “don’t be a cunt, drive off like the other bloke did”. And off we go. All the way there this guy is telling this women to “shut the fuck up” and calling her a “stupid bitch”. From what I could gather they are looking for something in one of their bags, perhaps keys, maybe money. Anyway, we arrive at one of the side streets next to the old Arsenal stadium. He gets out leaving her to deal with the money. The meter reads £23.40. She places a hand full of shrapnel into my cupped hands and I start to count. There were eight pound coins, four Euros and a few cents. “There’s not enough here love” I tell her. “That’s all I have,” she replies in a near to tears voice. I just knew they were going to be trouble. For all I knew the guy at Victoria probably had them in his cab before. “I’ll see if there’s any money inside,” suggested the old girl. I knew there wouldn’t be so taking a small amount of pity on her I said to her “D’you know what? Just go, OK?” And then as if she’d been expecting me to say that she said, “Thank you, may the Lord bless you and bring you good luck” I couldn’t help but think it was a tried and tested way of them getting home for under a tenner but as long as it only happens once or twice a year I can live with that.
It’s now almost eight in the evening and I’m off to work.
23 days left until my holiday.
Check back soon.
Friday, August 03, 2007
After all the rain in the last few weeks the weather has now done an about face. I’ve had to do a few early turns this week and the heat and brightness have been unbearable.
I haven’t had much time to blog in the last few weeks as I’ve been otherwise engaged earning a living and running a household.
My daughter is now back from San Diego and the peace at home has now been shattered.
All of a sudden she’s in to Prince and wants to go see him in concert at the O2 in a few weeks. Her Nan has booked the tickets and she wants me to take her on the night. More loss of earnings!
I’ve spent the last few weeks ferrying different people too and from Luton and Gatwick Airports. I’m due to collect my niece and her friend from summer camp tomorrow and take her friend to Luton Airport for a flight back to Malaga in Spain. My niece is staying an extra week and then she too will need to be taken to Luton Airport.
I paid my £800 cab rent last week and by Monday £400 will be owed again.
I gave the mechanic at the garage a list of faults to be getting on with and was pleased with the results of his labour. An annoying rattle from somewhere at the back was stopped and that burning gear oil smell also seems to have gone. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a heap of shit but it will do for now.
I’ve been doing some nice rides on Xeta these last few weeks. Most of them are LUL (London Underground Limited) rides which only pay 75% of the meter but most of the ones I’ve done have paid over forty pounds. The last one I did on Wednesday night was a 7 hander starting at Knightsbridge and picking up and dropping of at various destinations and ending up in Cockfosters in North London.
I worked two shifts yesterday and did all cash work as for some reason I missed out on the account work. There was plenty of street work and my main pick up area was Victoria.
In spite of all the troubles we’ve had in the last month there are still plenty of tourists in town. Whilst sitting in the traffic in Oxford Street yesterday an Australian lady jumped in and asked if I accepted credit cards. Thinking she was going on a road trip I said yes and she named her destination as Harvey Nicholls. She then proceeded to complain to someone on her phone that she had left her credit card at home and that she was on a major shopping spree and how the hell was she going to be able to shop without her card as she had no money and no means of getting any. I’m thinking to myself how the hell is she gonna pay me never mind her shopping. She then started talking to me about it so I took the opportunity to ask her how I was getting my money. Apparently, she had a corporate card on her but her personal credit card was on the table at home and she was in town to shop for a forthcoming wedding. Without her own card she would just have to window shop – only a woman could do that. The fare was £6.60 and that’s all I got.
An American lady called me a “wanker” the other night because I wouldn’t take her and her pals to Oakwood for £40. I thought the price would be nearer to £50 and when I told them that they surrounded the cab and got all argumentative and hostile on me. I said “if you’re going to quibble for £10 then forget it” and started driving off, which is when that lovely world was issued to me. I get insults hurled at me on a regular basis, it’s just one of the delights of being a cabby.I’m writing this on my break. I’ve already done four hours work and have come home to cool down before the Friday night madness. I’ll see if I can steer clear of any trouble tonight!
38 days to go.
Check back soon.
Friday, July 13, 2007
On Tuesday I was just gearing myself up for an early start when my brother in law rang me for directions to a far away place. His Tom Tom software recently got erased from his PDA and he needed to take four Indian guys on a two hundred mile road trip to Llangollen in North Wales. It was a complicated route so I decided to stay at home and constanly update him via the phone. The journey was a nightmare for him as it had started during the rush hour. About five hours into the trip and they changed their destination to Chester, near Liverpool. The meter total was £706 and there seemed to be a problem getting the money together. I was listening the whole time on the phone and caught comments such as “It’s a lot of money” from one of the passengers followed by “yeah and it’s a long journey as well” from my brother in law. He hadn’t expected to be paid the full amount on the meter and had sugested they pay £600 but after much screwing around he eventually cut his losses and settled for five. I then had to guide him to the M6 for the journey home and only when he was safely London-bound did I decide to go out for a few hours myself. I managed a multi pickup and drop LUL job from Earls Court eventually ending in West Sutton to finish my shift about five hours later. The brother in law was only just reaching London’s outer limits by then. He took the next day off through fatigue so lost the gains he’d made the day before. Sometimes these “roaders” are just not worth it.
Yesterday I paid a visit to my parents’ house. My mum was flapping because her nine-year-old washing machine, which she’d recently spent a fortune on getting repaired, was on the blink yet again. She was in a dilemma about whether to have more repairs done or to buy a new one. I convinced her to get a new one with a five-year warranty and drove her straight to Comets before she could change her mind. The one she wanted wasn’t in stock so she picked another one, which was, and I put it in the cab and drove her and the machine back home. It was easy enough to plumb in, something I’ve done a half dozen times before. I told her I’d get rid of the old one and she tried to get me to remove all the new parts from it such as the new water pump and an extra long waste pipe that was attached to the pump. I checked the pipe against the new one and found it wouldn’t fit but she took it and put it away “just in case it comes in handy one day” but the water pump went with the machine which I left for the bin men to collect. By the time I got home I was knackered so only managed a few hours in the saddle before calling it a night.
This morning my legs were as stiff as boards after all the heavy lifting yesterday and I barely managed to walk downstairs. I had to go back to my parents’ house to connect a TV up so that my mum could watch her beloved novellas (soap operas) on the Spanish satellite channel TVE. I had a bite to eat up there then came home to nap for a few more hours. I was at work by 6.30pm and it started pretty slow. It eventually got busier and I trapped a nice job down to East Croydon. I was making my way back to the Kensington area to await an LUL job. The LUL jobs were just being issued on the radio when I trapped, what looked to me like a drugged up girl wanting to go to George St. I thought to myself that it would only take about ten minutes and even if I got offered an LUL job I would have time to get back and do it. So, I’m northbound on Park Lane and the smell hits me.
Me: Don’t tell me you’ve got sick?
Me: For fuck sake what’s wrong with you women?
Couldn’t you have asked me to pull over?
Girl: I didn’t know I was going to be sick.
Me: I bet if you were at home you would have run to the toilet.
Girl: I’m really sorry. I’ll pay for it.
Me: You’re dam right you’ll pay for it and it’s gonna cost ya fifty quid!!
I was in danger of losing control and the expletives were flowing a bit too freely so I decided to check myself and calm down. I think she was a bit frightened and I’d hate that to be my daughter being insulted in the way I was insulting her but as I’ve said before when I lose it anything’s possible. She asked me to stop at the next ATM and asked how much she’d need to take out. We were at Marble Arch by now and there was twelve forty on the meter. I’m entitled by law to ask for up to forty pounds and one look at the carpet told me it would have to go. I told her fifty would cover it. Whilst she was at the ATM I took a picture of the puke. As well as the puke on my carpet she had a lot of it on her clothes too. She got back in and I drove her home to George Street where she handed me the fifty pounds and ran, embarrassed I should think, into her building. I drove straight home and washed as much out as I could and hopefully there’ll be no smell there in the morning. We’ll see. I was quite gutted as I wanted to do a bit more work but from past experience it’s best to try and neutralize the smell before picking up passengers as they can always tell.
59 Days to go for my holidays.
Check back soon.
Monday, July 09, 2007
I attended one of my cabby mates’ 25th Wedding Anniversary yesterday. The weather stayed fine after all the rain we’ve had and there was plenty of food and drink for everyone. I spent a lot of the day standing and really felt it in my legs this morning.
London has been hosting several events in the last week that have caused roads to be closed causing major traffic problems. For the last few days the Tour de France has been preparing to start and there have been trials and the start of the race proper was today. (Can anybody tell me why the Tour de France is starting in London?) All the routes through the center of town have been seriously disrupted and some fares have gone double what they should have, some even treble. I did one job from Great Queen Street to Victoria Station, which would normally go a tenner, and at the drop off the fare was twenty-five pounds and the guy was squealing like a pig at the journeys end. It’s great if you haven’t got a conscience but unfortunately I have and often find myself knocking a few quid off.
I think it must be open season for kids to throw stuff at taxis. Another kid recently threw an apple at me but it bounced off the side of the cab. Whilst driving back to town through Barnes a few days ago I saw another boy getting ready to throw something at me but I slammed on the brakes and screamed at him and he ran into his house. Little buggers!!
The payments from my radio work have started to come through each week and it’s really helping me sort my finances out. The cab rent will be paid by Wednesday with only two weeks owing, which is good going for me. I’m compiling a list of problems that are actually now pissing me off and I am going to demand something is done. As I’ve said before I could change garages but I don’t want to and I can’t ask for another cab because they are reducing their fleet because of recent changes in the emissions laws which is causing the sale of the older cabs. It’s just a matter of putting aside some time so that it can be spent in a cramped office drinking lots of coffee and talking a lot of bollocks with similarly pissed off cabbies while the work on the cab is carried out.
A few days ago, I think it was Friday night, I picked up an extremely posh couple as they frantically waved me down in Piccadilly. “You’re like goldust tonight” the man said to me. Not really in a talkative mood (am I ever?) I mumbled something back and off we went towards Kensington. “Do you know we’ve been looking for a cab for the last twenty minutes?” the woman piped up. What could I say but “Oh yeah?” “Yes. We started off at the Embankment and eventually had to get a bus to here. I’ve never felt so humiliated in my life.” They looked ordinary enough to me; in fact I wouldn’t have given them a second glance so God knows why they’d feel humiliated to be riding on a bus. I suppose you’d have to be stuck-up to think that way in the first place. I nearly said something along the lines of “What, are buses not good enough for people like you?” but as ever I held my tongue and received a £2 tip for doing so. Sometimes you just have to keep schtumm!!
I’m counting down the days (63) until my own holiday on the 10th of September. I’m flying to Alicante where I will hire a car and drive to my parents’ flat in Torrevieja in southern Spain. I’ve even bought the Tom Tom map of Spain and Portugal so that I can use my satnav over there. Bring it on.