Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Drunks, Beauties and Flashers.

So, England, my national football team, are given a “get out of jail free” card by Israel and now have their Euro 2008 destiny back in their own hands. Let’s not waste it lads.
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

Cold and quiet

The points issue has yet to be resolved. Maybe the last three I received have got lost in the post, here’s hoping. Since then I have been driving around like a snail. It’s quite painful. It must be the same for everyone else. Night driving should be looked upon as completely different to day driving. No kids to run over, no elderly folks, not much of anything really just empty streets with cars all driving ridiculously slow for the road conditions. Sometimes I think it would be better if I did lose my licence permanently as I would then be forced into a complete career change whilst I’m still young enough.

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!! 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

Singe: A slight or surface burn; a scorch.

We had our Guy Fawkes Night party on Sunday the 4th at my parents’ house. My brother in law had acquired an enormous box of fireworks from a friend of his so it was decided to have a party with food thrown in as well. My son, nephew, brother in law and myself were in charge of the fireworks and we made sure they were fired from as safe a distance as was physically possible in my mothers extremely cluttered garden. The first few rockets and fireworks went off as they were supposed to. One rocket decided to misbehave and gave everyone a scare. The fuse was lit and the rocket started to fizz. It then attempted to take off but there seemed to be insufficient thrust. Barely six feet off the ground, the rocket turned 90 degrees towards the watching crowd and then decided to speed up. As everyone dived out of the way it just about missed everyone, including my mother, who was watching from an upstairs window, and bounced off the slates on the roof and nose-dived back downwards landing in the neighbour’s patio with an enormous bang. A few of the little kids there were alarmed but all the teenagers thought it was great and all you could hear were whoops of delight. I was worried that there may be more dud rockets in the box and tried to angle the launch tube away from the house. The rest of the fire works went off without any more surprises and we left the biggest one till last which had everyone applauding at the end. All that was left were a few packets of sparklers, which were distributed between all of us. Once all of them were lit they were waived around in circles creating all sorts of patterns. As there were so many of us in such a confined space it was inevitable that something would go wrong. One of the waiving sparklers made contact with the hood of my daughter’s jacket and promptly caught light. It didn’t just catch light it started blazing which also started to set fire to her hair. Swift action by a few of us was implemented and the fire was put out but the shock was too much for Katie to take and she broke down in tears and had to be taken home by my son. She’s OK now but vow’s never to play with sparklers again.

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