Saturday, January 20, 2007

Killer Storms

It’s been quite an eventful week all things considered. My eldest has decided he hates meter reading. I think a lot has to do with the fact that it’s been cold and windy recently. He’s also disillusioned by the way he gets treated by some people when he knocks on their doors to gain access to the buildings. He’s decided he wants to do “The Knowledge” to be a cabbie, a two to three year vocation these days. I’ll keep you posted on his progress.

Yesterday, Thursday, was very stormy and several people were killed going about their business. I myself narrowly missed being struck by a flying roof tile as I drove down Fleet Street around lunchtime. The offending tile landed just feet in front of me. After breakfasting with my mate we were making our way back to our cabs when a gust of wind blew a large piece of metal dangerously close to the edge of a building and just hung there threatening to fall and injure or even kill some innocent passerby. My mate decided to take matters in to his own hands and, after alerting a nearby police car of the problem, decided to warn anyone who got too close of the danger. The Fire Brigade eventually turned up and removed the offending object. (See pic below)

Many parts of London were plunged into chaos as fallen trees blocked roads. Trains services were also severely disrupted and if there was one day when you could make some serious money it was this day from around 5pm onwards. So as fate would have it I was unable to “make hay” as I had to rush home to get cleaned up before attending my niece’s 21st birthday celebrations. My final drop was at Waterloo Station and I was surrounded by people wanting my cab to various lucrative destinations. None of them were to take me homewards so I had to drive away empty. The journey home was an absolute nightmare. As I crossed Westminster Bridge I could see that Parliament Square was solid with traffic. What I couldn’t see was that the exit I needed was shut so as I fought my way round to the Great George Street exit I ended up gridlocked. After about twenty minutes I found myself level with the black gates of Downing Street. Twenty minutes to go just a few hundred yards. At that point sirens could be heard in the distance getting louder by the second. Two motorcycle cops wove their way through the traffic and managed to get a pathway open so that a convoy containing our beloved Prime Minister could glide effortlessly through the gates into Downing Street. The gates closed behind them and the pathway disappeared leaving us all to our own devices. I decided that if I was to get home and make the celebration on time I would have to take drastic measures. I managed to fight my way over to the outside lane of Whitehall and turn into Horse Guards Avenue and then make my way home via the Embankment, Farringdon Road, Kings Cross and Marylebone Road. I made it with minutes to spare.

I had two confrontations this week. One with a passenger and one with another cabby. I picked up a couple from the Copthorne Tara rank and they asked me for Knightsbridge. I took them via Marloes Road and Cromwell Road. As I approached the Knightsbridge area I asked where they wanted and the woman proceeded to lay into me because, in her opinion I’d taken them the long way round. I should have gone via Kensington High Street according to her. “But I still would have had to cut through to get you here” I said to her. Her partner was deciding whether to get involved but I was in full flow and would have torn him apart (verbally) and I think he could see that so he opted out. She was making a fool of herself and eventually realized she was so handed over the £6.40 and walked off.

The row with the cabby happened as we were waiting to turn right from Davies Street into Oxford Street. He had waited for two light changes without moving as the box junction was blocked. The trouble was that if he continued to wait for a gap we’d have been there all day so I decided to go round him. He took exception to this and pulled up alongside me and started to slag me off. I had a punter in the back and so did he but I think we both used every word in the profanity dictionary until a break in the traffic allowed us all to get on with the journey. I apologized to the lady passenger about my language but she was in full agreement that the other guy was a complete and utter arsehole and she’d have done the same in my place.

There is a chain of snack bars favored by cabbies called “The Piccolo”. I know of three but I think there’s more than that. I generally use the one in Mayfair or the one in Gresham Street in The City. The third one is in Queen Victoria Street (pictured). I asked for meat pasta with a chicken escalope and was met with a horrified gaze as if I’d asked for a bag of heroin or something. I always get escalope with pasta or spaghetti in the other two and have never had any problems. What got me was that in the refrigerated display cabinet the escalope was right next to the pasta as if they were meant to go together yet the guy was like “What? You can’t have escalope with pasta, it’s just not done” Everyone standing around waiting to be served then started looking at me as if I was an alien but I stood my ground and eventually got what I’ve had many times before and will have many times in the future.

Piccolo, Queen Victoria Street

A bone of contention in the cab game is when you’ve done time on a rank then get a very short ride. Then the passenger adds insult to injury by getting out before arriving at the destination and hands over a twenty for a £3 fare taking all your change and then asks for a receipt whilst you’re holding the traffic up behind you. Whilst I was on the Euston rank today (a first in many many months for me) an old boy comes up to me and says “sorry mate but I’ve gotta tell someone”. He’d waited the best part of half an hour when this lady gets in and asks for Warren Street, a few hundred yards from the station. As he’s negotiating the traffic from Grafton Way into Tottenham Court Road she decides she wants to get out in the middle of the road, hands over the ubiquitous twenty and asks for the receipt. The traffic by this time has moved on and he’s left holding up everything behind him, horns blaring, the lot. He gives her the receipt and she proceeds to tell him that he’s the rudest cab driver she’s ever encountered. “ I wouldn't mind mate but I hadn’t even opened my mouth through all of this ” he said to me. I could only sympathize with him having had similar occurrences happen to me over the years. I pulled forward to pick up my fares who went to Kentish Town and I saw him telling the story to another cab driver. A problem aired…and all that.


John said...

I think evry cab driver knows the feeling. Its like the last thing in the world that they would be asked for money. First they take out the handbag then they rummage around through empty water bottles, tissues, spare tights and cans of mace.."There I am a bit short today." I hear she has gone to live in London.

Anonymous said...

The Copthorne Tara? A venue I avoid like plague. It's now used by tightarses who view themselves as 'well of' because they're staying in a downtroden Kensington Hotel.

I've never had a good job from there in a long time, I certainly would'nt give their rank any of my time.

De Vere Gardens is, in my humble opinion,is more likely to produce both a punter and a tidy sum more quickly, yet the rank is often devoid of cab's.
If you use the top rank, you often cop some work from Baglioni's where the real wealth lies.

Cheers, Terry.

jo said...

Don't you just love people - they don't live in London, but they seem to think they know better!!

Maybe they should drive themselves around London - pay the Congestion Charge - pay horrendous parking charges - pay to have their car un-clamped - pay their parking ticket on top of that - all for the sake of saving a £6.40 taxi fare. They don't know they are born!!

Keith said...

As for food, I once had an argumenr with an Indian restauranteur over the use of fenugreek leaf (methi) with potato. He said they would never use that combination. I do all the time and it works terrifically well. I told another restauranteur about it and now it's on their menu. You have what you like. Chips n ice cream, Greek yoghurt and jelly babies...

Dan said...

Any idea how I can get in touch with the author? Would like the opportunity to ask you a few questions for a magazine that I work on. If you can respond with a way of me getting hold you I would appreciate it.

jo said...

They do a really nice Blackpudding and Salad Cream, in a Cafe in Peterborough Road, near the New King's Road. Mmm, delicious!!