Saturday, December 20, 2008

TX1 to TX4

Hi folks

Since my last post, I suppose the main news I have to tell you is that finally, after moaning and bitching about the state of my cab for the last couple of years, I have finally done something about it and moved on to another garage and am now the proud renter of a brand spanking new TX4 Silver.

It's costing me another £40 per week but after having driven it for the last few days I'm sure I've made the right decision.

On a recent return trip from Ipswich I was driving an R reg TX1, as my V reg was in overhaul, and I couldn't even overtake a group of lorries on the M25 as that particular cab had no guts. It was quite embarrassing as I got stuck between a lorry and a van and I think they were messing with me and there was nothing I could do about it.

A day or two later my mate SilverChris, not the other Chris, rang to say that the garage that does work on his cab had just purchased four brand new TX4's and was looking for reliable drivers so after a bit of a think I decided to take the plunge.

Now came the tricky bit. To tell my current garage that I was leaving them for pastures new. Anyone that knows me will know that I can be a bit of a pussy when it comes to confrontations and face-to-face exchanges. So, on the Thursday morning just gone, there I am lying in my pit pondering the meaning of life when my garage rings to say that my V reg is ready for collection after having just been overhauled. OK says me I'll be there in a bit. Now bear in mind I've already agreed with the new garage that I'll be renting from him as soon as the cab is available. 2 minutes later the bloke at the new garage rings to say the TX4 is ready and waiting and what time will I be going to collect it? Panic sets in as my brain tries to absorb these two bits of information. Anyone else reading this would say, "what's the problem? Just give one cab back and go to the other garage and get the nice shiny new one. It's a no brainer" but as I said I have always had a problem leaving one garage for another and over my eighteen years as a cabby have had my wife, mother in law and even Chris go into various garages with some story or other just so that I didn't have to face the owner. None of the above three were instantly available to get me out of this one so I decided to stop being such a wimp and to ring my garage back. One of the mechanics answered and said the owner had just popped out. “Result!!” Thought I. I hung up, jumped out of bed and raced round there so that I could give the cab back to one of the other guys and tell them I wouldn't be back, citing personal reasons. As I approached the garage my heart sank as the owner was standing there chatting to another driver. He waved at me in his friendly Greek way and my brain started ticking as to what I was going to say to him. "Hello mate" I said to him. "I should have rung you a few days ago as I have to go away for a few weeks to sort out some family trouble in Spain" (Where the hell did that come from, I thought). "Nothing serious I hope" says the owner. "I can't really say but I'll ring you as soon as I know when I'll be coming back" "No problem, I hope it all works out" he says all concerned. I felt a bit annoyed with myself at having to deceive him like that as I've always got on well with him and effectively, this would be the last time I would probably ever see him again. Still, that's a part of me that I can't do anything about so I'm stuck with it. I paid him for the three days I owed him and left to make my way to the new garage. As I walked down Holloway Road towards the tube station I felt like I was starting out on a new adventure and even felt a tingle of excitement. After studying the tube map at Holloway Station I deduced it would be too awkward to get the tube as I would have to go south to go north so I bought an Oyster Card and got two buses to Edgware where the new garage is situated. Having been behind the wheel of a cab for so long it felt strange to be on the top deck of a London bus. I sat at the back and read a paper. I changed buses at Friern Barnet and boarded the number 221 and after a few stops the bus was invaded with school kids. They all made their way upstairs and sat all around me and started messing about, throwing things at each other and annoying all the passengers who chose to move away leaving me isolated in the corner at the back. I just continued reading and thought that I would just ignore all the noise even though I found it all quite intimidating. Stop by stop the school kids disembarked and soon all was quiet and orderly again. The bus terminated at Edgware so I got off and was suddenly overcome with the urge to eat as I had been on the go for the last few hours. I went in to the KFC there and had a filet tower burger and a diet coke and walked the short distance to the garage. As I arrived at my unfamiliar new garage, the boss, who had been expecting me, guessed it was me by saying my name and I shook his greasy hand and entered his office to fill in forms and hand over a weeks rent up front. Once the formalities were over he took me outside to show me round the shiny new black cab. One thing that caught my eye straight away was the Blaupunkt CD player and an auxiliary lead protruding from it. This would enable me to hook up my beloved iPod and continue to enjoy my music as I have done in the other cab via the tape deck and a dummy cassette. We shook hands again and he reiterated that he'd like me to pay promptly every Thursday or Friday as he had payments to meet. I thought to myself that if he'd spoken to my previous garage to see if I was a prompt payer then he may not have taken me on but I have been a much better payer in recent months so I don't anticipate any problems. As I drove away the throttle stuck down and I had to brake with the engine racing. "What now" I thought to myself. I immediately put it in reverse and let the revs take me back to the garage entrance where the boss was standing there. I told him the throttle was stuck and he opened my door and saw immediately that the pedal had caught on the mat (which incidentally was an old manky one pulled out of an old cab and spoiling the look of the new cab). He said I could either remove the mat or trim it and I drove away again. Being in the same neighbourhood as my parents I took the opportunity to visit them and then made my way home to prepare for my nights work in the new cab.
So, as I write this I've done a couple of shifts and am now getting used to the cab. There are many differences to a TX1 but it eventually falls in to place and I know I have made the right choice. I'm looking forward to my next visit to Ipswich and to get my own back on all those lorries on the M25 and A12 ! !

So all that remains is to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2009.

Take Care Out There ! !


Monday, November 24, 2008

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire

Hi all
I have cable TV at home and they offer On Demand programmes which I find suits me better as I can, after a hard nights graft, settle down with a nice cuppa and maybe a tray of donuts or, lately, a few pounds of roasted chestnuts, to watch a huge range of programmes which I can start when I’m ready to watch. So, flicking through the available programmes I came across one called Taxicab Confessions. It’s been on there for ages but I’ve never fancied watching it but the other night I gave it a go and was greatly entertained for the next few hours. For those of you who don’t know it’s a programme where up to 6 miniature cameras are attached to the inside of various cabs. In the two shows I saw the cabs were either NYC Yellow Cabs or Las Vegas cabs. I would imagine that there were lots of footage of uninteresting fares that ended up on the cutting room floor but the ones that made it to the screen were immensely entertaining and some of them actually quite raunchy with plenty of boobs being flashed and sexy goings-ons, well, going on. Similar things have happened in the back of my cab but the occurrences are very few and far between and those on TV seemed a lot more exciting.

The cold weather is well and truly upon us and we’ve had quite a few instances of snow up and down the country. I looked out of my bedroom window this morning and the cab was white but after a few hours it had all melted. The cold weather is great for finding out if your battery is any good. A couple of Sundays ago as I was starting work and making my way to Paddington I was flagged by a guy in Warrington Crescent who only wanted a jump start. Luckily I had leads with me as he never had any and I managed to get him going in a few minutes. My own taxi battery is probably in need of replacing because after a recent 3-day visit to Ipswich to see Jane it barely started so I may need to tell the guys at the garage tomorrow when I go there to pay the two weeks rent I now owe them.

It’s also a good thing that my heater works well as most people jumping in these days are relieved when that blast of warmth hits them. A few days ago I was driving up St James’s Street when a couple of guys came out of Just St James’s restaurant. They were both wearing army greatcoats and their bearskin headgear like the guys that stand watch at Buckingham and St James’s Palaces. I thought they may have been in fancy dress and asked if they were for real. They answered that they’d just finished guard duty and had popped in for a drink. I was inclined to believe them as army guys have a certain way about them and use a totally different language to everyone else like calling you “chap” instead of “mate”.

There’s a new shopping centre at Shepherds Bush called Westfield. It’s enormous. I popped in to check out the cab rank for the first time and after waiting 20 minutes without the rank having moved up once I pulled off completely disillusioned with the place. Apparently motorists have to pay to park there so I think most people will continue using Brent Cross for the meantime.

I’ve only got a few items of any interest to report since my last post. I had a “scream up” with another cabbie because he reckoned I knicked a job which should’ve gone to the rank. The incident happened on the north side of Sloane Square when I pulled in for a couple of old dears. They were going to Beaufort Street so I had to drive round the square back into Kings Road. As I got caught in traffic by the rank this jobsworth cabbie, who must have eyes like a hawk, got out of his cab and started piping up that I should’ve sent them across to the rank from the other side. Now, I’m all for cab etiquette but in this instance I disagreed so we had a bit of a slanging match whilst the bemused old dears just sat in the back taking it all in. By the way it was Friday night and buzzing everywhere so he really should get a life.

Later on in the shift I trapped a couple going to Southfields from Kensington High Street. They started kissing passionately and the girl decided to straddle the guy, I suppose for better access. I was trying to cop a look through the rear view when I belatedly noticed that some lights I was approaching had turned red. I slammed the brakes on and the two of them shot forward and ended up with a thud on the cab floor. I thought they may be hurt but I was also embarrassed at having slammed on the brakes so I made out I never heard anything. After a few minutes I heard them talking as if nothing had happened and they remained on the floor until we entered their area and I had to ask for directions. They never mentioned anything and neither did I.

So, as December approaches we’re starting to see the first signs of festive spirit with quite a few homes around town already putting up their exterior decorations. I was in Ipswich last week for the turning on of the Christmas light but they hadn’t even put a tree up. They had a nice roasted chestnut stall there though and I warmed myself up with a five quid bag and even ate the rest of Jane’s chestnuts. I love ‘em.

Take Care out there and watch out for black ice on the roads.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Obama Edition

Hi folks
Has it been that long again?

Well here I am again, sitting at the PC with my trusty Jack Russell at my side. He’s only here because I’m eating a bag of Pistachio nuts and is hoping for a hand out. He’s already had about a third of the bag but until he hears the rustle of the empty packet he hangs around just in case. Don’t you Dude? (like the name?)

I guess I should give a mention to president-elect Barack Obama who as we all know will lead the free world into happier times, hopefully. He’s already said it may not happen this term, or the next so that’s all bases covered just in case he turns out to be no better than Bush. Good luck to him all the same as he’s going to need it.

My girlfriend, who’s called Jane, doesn’t like me mentioning her on here so I won’t other than to say it’s all going well, extremely well and we just had a great break in Norfolk where we visited the towns of Kings Lynn, Sandringham, Huntstanton and Wells-next-the-sea. She’s also just started a new job in her hometown of Ipswich and is, as far as I can tell, enjoying herself. I’ve probably already said too much for her liking so I’ll stop but as it’s a blog about me and my life I felt I should update anyone who’s remotely interested.

And so to work. As I’d be lost without my notes I’m going to refer to them and write chronologically if that’s OK with you all and I’ll try and make it sound as interesting as I can.

Sunday 12th October. Did about 17 jobs going to all corners of London. Whilst on the phone to Chris (remember him?) I was driving a guy to the Citadines on Northumberland Avenue from Victoria. I had both earphones in so as to hear Chris clearly when I notice the guy in the back gesticulating through the mirror. I’d been deep in conversation and suddenly snapped back to reality when I realised I’d gone sailing past Northumberland Avenue and was fast approaching Waterloo Bridge. I removed one earphone and made my apologies and looked for somewhere I could legally make a U turn. It’s not a very nice feeling when you do something wrong and it makes you look unprofessional. There’s no option but to knock a couple of quid off the fare and keep apologising but as it turned out this guy found the funny side of it and paid me, including a tip.

During that same shift I was returning from town after dropping of at Ontario Tower and was double-flashed by the camera in the Limehouse Link. It shows up in the trade paper as one of the camera hotspots but as of yet I haven’t received any notifications so hopefully I won’t receive any more penalty points this year.

Monday 13th October. I was all set for work when another cabbie mate of mine also called Chris, but we call him Silver Chris, popped in for me to have a look at his PDA, which was on the blink. As I’ve mentioned before, most PDA’s need to be used constantly as they lose their charge and all data is lost. The long and short of it was that I couldn’t get the satnav to work so convinced Chris to buy a similar PDA to the one I use. Before he had time to give it a second thought I’d surfed to eBay and he’d bought the required items and then had to log onto Paypal to pay for them. He told me after that he’d felt like he’d been raped as it was all over so quick and he was several pounds (£’s) lighter because of it. The items have since arrived and I have installed satnav and mapping software for him and he couldn’t be happier. I sold the other PDA on eBay and recouped most of what he’s spent so all’s well that ends well.

Thursday 16th October. Jane came to town for the day and we had a pleasant few hours at Brent Cross Shopping Centre before she went home with her son.

Friday 18th October. Was a stressful shift on account of being caught in the West End and unable to get out. I fought my way to Piccadilly westbound and was hailed by the doorman of The Ritz. The trouble was that I had stopped on a box junction, which is monitored by cameras and he turned away to go and get the passengers leaving me stranded and blocking the road. Five bubbly girls then approached me and asked for Sloane Square so I told them to jump in. Girls never just jump in, they have to faff about first. So, I’m still blocking the road, the traffic is honking at me to get out of the way and these girls are all deciding who should get in (as there was 10 in the party). I’m fed up, I’m stressed out so inevitably, like every dormant volcano, I eventually blow!!!!! I could probably be struck off for this but I effed and blinded for all I was worth and eventually they all crammed in and I pulled off the box junction. Then one of them decided to spoil it for all of them. “And don’t fucking swear at us right?” she piped up. The red mist descended over me and I swerved in to the pavement and just said “out!!!”

Her: Oh come on mate we’ve waited ages for a cab
Me: I don’t give a f***, get out.
Her: Why?
Me: Because you should learn to keep your mouth shut.
(Can I just say that after the fact I wasn’t too proud of myself and this sort of thing only happens once in a blue moon)

I was on the phone to the gf at the time and it was the first time she’d heard me lose my cool and wasn’t too impressed with me. The five girls all filed out of the cab and the last one left the door open telling me to get out and close the door myself. There was a nice couple waiting right there for a cab so they just got in and closed the door and I was off to the Intercontinental Hotel just up the road.

The following Saturday 25th October I did my shift without any dramas and at around 3am I dropped off in Selsdon, deepest South London, set my satnav for Ipswich and set off. For the next three days I could forget about work and enjoy some female company and build up my strength for the following Wednesday when I would return to work.

On the Thursday I got up bright and early and headed out to do some chores. I ended up round the back of the Cumberland hotel where there is a cab rank and I walked round to the Prêt a Manger for a latte and a cheese and pickle baguette. I placed the coffee on the dash while I ate my baguette and then forgot all about it as I accelerated away. The coffee upended and burst open all into the luggage-well. I was gutted, to say the least. Now a week later and the milk that soaked into the carpet is now going off and there is a very peculiar smell emanating from it. I gave my daughter a lift somewhere the other day and as she got in she said it smelt of “arse”. Passengers, being polite, wouldn’t say anything but I’m sure they can smell it too. I bought a tin of Febreeze last night and I think it’s masking the smell quite well.

Last Saturday, the 1st of November was a very busy shift. The fanbelt had been screeching for the last few days and I tried to adjust it with a lever I had but it wasn’t strong enough. I went to one of those pound shops on Kilburn High Road and bought the “Mother of all Crowbars”. I don’t know why they’re called pound shops because it cost me £6.99 but it did the job and also doubles as a bit of extra security for those long dark cold nights ahead. The shift went really well and I even picked up a nice job from Brixton out to Brentford, which is unheard of for me, but the Academy had just turned out and they were crying out for cabs.

Monday 3rd of October saw me take my daughter to the cinema to watch Eagle Eye. It was action packed from start to finish and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes fast paced films. The popcorn and drink was nice too.

Wednesday 5th November was Bonfire Night where everyone lets off fireworks and light fires with effigies of Guy Fawkes on top. Work was brisk and I started at Paddington with a job to the Marriot Marble Arch. On arriving the American offered me an American Express card. “Sorry mate I don’t accept cards” I said to him. “What if I don’t have any cash on me?” he says. “Then you shouldn’t be getting in to a cab without the means to pay” “But I do have the means to pay” waiving the card at me. “Not in this cab mate, you’d better go inside and get some cash”. He wasn’t too impressed. I’d stopped the meter at £5 when we arrived and had I kept it going it would have now been at around £8 by the time he returned but all I got was the £5 and not even a thank you nor anything similar.

The next few jobs kept me in and around central London so I stopped for a bite to eat at the Astral in Regency Street. I bought a tuna and sweetcorn baguette a latte and a custard tart and drove up to the Raft in Victoria to wait for a job whilst eating but as I arrived there was a burst on and I had to eat as I drove my fare to……..wait for it……back to Regency Street. On the way there I clipped the back of a cab that had made a half left turn then stopped abruptly and now I have a nice scuff mark spanning both my nearside doors and my rear wheel arch. I have to go to the cab garage to pay the rent tomorrow so I hope they have a new advert to cover the marks up. I waited for the driver of the cab to get out and approach me but after a few moments he never bothered so neither did I.

The only thing to ruin my night other than the scuff marks was when I dropped a nice lady in Putney and asked for the £25 fare. She handed me what I thought was a twenty and a five and I drove off. On closer inspection I saw that it was a ten and a five so I’d done myself out of a tenner, which took me a while to get over, I actually felt like chinning someone but it wore off eventually. What goes around comes around.

You may have noticed the Coolbox Hire link in my side bar. That company belongs to my sister and she had a large order of 10 cool boxes that needed delivering last week. Today they needed collecting and returning to her so I helped her out by picking up five of the said boxes. The traffic there and back was ridiculous and I don’t know why anyone would want to put themselves through that on a daily basis. No thanks. I’ll stay on nights for now.

Catch you all later. LC

Sunday, October 12, 2008

AW Says We're Quits!!!

Hi there people
Over the last few weeks I’ve been over to Suffolk to visit the gf a few times, had a few ding-dongs and made up again so at present everything is hunky dory and long may it remain so. I visited Bury St Edmunds on my latest trip and spent a few rainy hours there. I’ll have to return in the summer to check it out properly as I was well impressed with the place.

On the work front all I’ve been reading and hearing about is the bloody credit crunch. There’ve been banks collapsing left right and centre, other companies folding, billions wiped off share values but I’ve found it busier than ever out there so obviously people still can’t be too skint as they’re taking more cabs than ever at present. Long may that continue too.

90% of all customers are fantastic but there are still the few idiots out there who try your patience. A few days ago I was hailed by a couple of guys who looked dodgy, to say the least, at Vauxhall. They wanted me to drive somewhere nearby to collect someone who was “ill**” and then drive them all to a hospital in Carshalton. I asked if that person were likely to be “ill” in the cab, and by that I meant were they likely to get sick. Their answer wasn’t convincing enough so I refused. The last thing I needed at that time on a Friday night was a cab full of puke, and the smell that always accompanies it. One of them proceeded to kick and punch the cab as I started driving away, almost certainly denting one of the rear panels. I was chatting to the gf at the time and lost my rag and was just about to jump out and dent a few of his panels when the gf convinced me it wouldn’t be worth it and her soothing tones soon calmed me down. (Cheers darling!!) But this sort of behaviour can be a regular occurrence in the evenings and thankfully it isn’t my cab but a lot of owner drivers out there wouldn’t have let it go so any potential cab booters out there reading this please think twice before you do it.

** Ill invariably means pissed as a newt and likely to get sick especially on longer journeys.

I picked a guy up in Cavendish Square the other night. He’d been to the nightspot at No.5 where inside he’d met and spoken to ex page 3 model and pop star Samantha Fox and her lesbian partner (according to him). He’d been intoxicated by Fox’s apparent beauty and couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it. Once he’d finished telling me he rang his mother and about four different friends and had the same conversation with all of them. She had obviously made an impression on him and I had to admit to myself that in the late 70’s and 80’s she’d been a page 3 favourite of mine along with the luscious Linda Lusardi. Oh Happy Days!!!

I was driving along the western end of the Kings Road when a guy flagged me down and asked to be taken to East Dulwich. “Simple enough route” thought I. “Over Chelsea Bridge, Clapham Old Town, Acre Lane, Herne Hill blah blah blah Simple”
“Why are you taking me this way?” he pipes up.
Me: What way should I be going then?
Him: Vauxhall Bridge or even Westminster Bridge. (He’s obviously on drugs!!)
Me: What from where I picked you up?
Him: That’s the way I drive it.
Me: But that don’t make it the right way.
Him: I use satnav and it always gets me to my destination.
Well all I can say in answer to that is thank God for the Knowledge.

I was dropping four Aussies in Harlesden recently when my phone started ringing. A check of the caller display told me it was none other than Titanic, my mate Chris.

Him: Where are ya? (This is said in an Irish accent, don’t ask)
Me: Harlesden.
Him: I’m holding a job here to Northwood Hills and she wants a price. D’you want it?
Me: Yeah, where abouts are you?
Him: Baker Street.
Me: Go on then.

He’s done this for me before whilst waiting at Baker Street Underground Station for a radio job but I’m often a lot nearer. The danger is the passenger won’t want to wait and they’ll walk out onto the street and get another cab there. So I had to drive like a maniac all the way from Harlesden cursing every red light that seemed to be changing as I approached. He got her to wait in the cab and I was there in about 10 minutes and finished my shift with a nice fifty pound ride out into my favourite part of London. Cheers Chris I owe you another one, mind you AW says we’re quits!!!!

Being a diabetic it goes without saying that I have to watch what I eat. By the same token I also have to watch it if I don’t eat as I can be in danger of suffering from low blood sugar, or a hypo, as it’s called. I had to drop my daughter at Charing Cross recently and as I approached Admiralty Arch, as I hadn’t eaten anything all day a hypo started taking a grip of me. I started feeling really rough and knew I had to get some food inside me pronto so I chucked her out at the Arch as the traffic was solid and spun round and headed for the Astral Café in Regency Street and ordered a Spag Bol. While I stood with all the other cabbies waiting for my food I grabbed a bar of chocolate out of the fridge and started munching it. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the nourishment to kick in so as I sat in my cab after my meal a wave of relief washed over me and I was good to go about 15 minutes after that. I must get a stash of sugary things and keep them in the boot for such occasions.

Saturday the 4th of October found me driving south down Marylebone High Street when four dudes flagged me down and asked for the Griffin Strip Club in Clerkenwell Road. They were all well oiled or even high on something but they asked for some music and if it could possibly be rock music. Now, as some of you might know, I often have my radio on whilst eating my meals in the cab and my radio station of choice is Virgin. Well they have recently changed their name to Absolute Radio as apparently Richard Branson has nothing to do with them anymore. They have a female DJ on in the evenings (don’t know her name yet) who plays all the great numbers from the 70’s and 80’s. I’m talking Pink Floyd, Led Zep, AC/DC, Yes, Free and many more. The four dudes started head banging (including air guitars) to Free’s Alright Now followed by Boston’s More Than A Feeling and were really pumped up by the time I arrived at their destination so I got a nice tip and plenty of thanks for the great music. So if you’re into rock check out Absolute Radio on FM or the net.

I went to the cab garage yesterday to pay my weekly rent and the owner was at the helm as all the hired help had finished for the day. His one solitary TX4 was still sitting there in the garage after the PCO revoked all the licences of the ’56 plated cabs due to them mysteriously catching fire. Luckily he only has the one and is still earning money from all his older cabs but I pity these one man bands that are now forced to rent another cab and still meet the payments for their useless TX4 whilst investigations are ongoing. The latest trade papers say that there will be compensation due when it’s all sorted but I would be very dubious of ever receiving a penny from them. Good luck to all affected cabbies out there.

Check back soon.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back From Spain

Since my last post I have spent a week in the land of Spain where I go once a year with my mother. I never really enjoy it I just wait for the week to end and then return and get back in to my routine. I was a bit apprehensive of flying this time when I saw that my plane was to be an Airbus instead of the usual Boeing 737. But it all turned out ok and the return flight was the exact same plane as I sat in the same seat and noticed a few tell-tale marks that I’d seen on the way out.

When I arrived at Luton Airport last Wednesday (17th) Chris collected us and after dropping my mum at home he drove me to the cab garage to collect my cab. I rang the garage to let them know I was on my way and the owner got on the phone to tell me he thought that I was taking two weeks off and that he’d rented out my cab to someone else. I was to ring him the next day to see if he had anything else available. Fine, thought I. I’ll use this as an excuse to find another garage as I’d been wanting to try somewhere else for ages. Chris had a trade paper in the cab and we started looking through it and trying a few numbers. Nobody had any cabs immediately available and it was looking like I’d be taking an extended holiday. Just when I was getting used to the idea of an extra day off my regular garage rang me back to say that they had a TX4, which I could use for a few days. It’s the only one in the garage and the regular driver was away on holiday. I went straight round there to collect it. I’d heard a lot about these cabs such as the smoother suspension and the faster acceleration but at the end of the day it was just another cab, which would cost me another forty quid a week if I were to rent it permanently. I worked it for two shifts, Wednesday and Thursday, and to be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed and was actually glad to get my own TX1 back on the Friday. The owner told me he’d taken it to have the gearbox serviced but as soon as I drove it out of the garage I could smell the gearbox fluid burning on the exhaust, a smell that wasn’t there last week. I’ve been working it all week and have even driven to see my girlfriend who lives in Suffolk and the smell has been there permanently. I don’t think I’ll be able to stand it much longer so hopefully I’ll get a call from one of those other garages that took my details to tell me that they have a nice cab waiting for me.

On the work front it’s been pretty steady. I always think that after the school restart at the beginning of September the work picks up until Christmas and then dies off again.

About a week before I went to Spain I picked up three guys in the West End and they asked to be taken to Mile End. They were chatting away to each other and as I drove through Whitechapel one of them asked me to stop for cigarettes. I pulled in to the Shell garage on Whitechapel road and one of them got out. The one who seemed the most dominant of the three calls out to me and says (in a strong Russian accent) “hey, can you stop the meter?”
Me: What for?
Him: Because we are not moving.
Me: But you are still in the taxi enjoying the comfort.
Him: But we are not going anywhere.
Me: Tell me something, would you work for nothing?
Him: No
Me: Well then. The meter stays on.
Him: OK I understand. Business is business.
Me: Exactly.
The other guy returned with the cigarettes and we proceed. A few minutes down the road and the Russian (I think the other two were Scandinavian) says that we need to stop again to buy some Vodka. He’s actually getting on my tits now with the way he speaks to me but I play it cool and start looking for an open off license. He starts directing me to Roman Road and is telling the other two that they’re going back to his place to have a good drink. All of a sudden one of the Scandinavians asks me to stop and turns to the Russian to tell him that they’re not comfortable with whats happening. The other Scandinavian was very quiet and had his head bowed, as if embarrassed. The first man starts telling the Russian that they don’t mean to offend him but they just want to go back to their “nice, safe hotel” in Central London. The Russian starts getting all offended and tells them that in his country if you refuse to have a drink of Vodka with someone its taken as a massive insult. So this goes on for a few minutes with me sitting there, the meter ticking over and the other man sitting silently until eventually the Russian gets out leaving me to drive these two guys back to their hotel in Portman Square and pocket a nice fee of fifty pounds. There was definitely something dodgy about the Russian and they could see it. As soon as he got out the two Scandics started jabbering away in their own language and were laughing and joking with each other, no doubt relieved at the close shave they’d just experienced.

I had one bit of grief worth mentioning last month when a man approached me on the rank at Victoria. He asked me to take him to Enfield. As he opened the door another man got in instead. They were obviously together but only this man was going to Enfield and he was rat-arsed drunk and instantly fell asleep. As I wound my way through the streets he suddenly awoke and opened one of the doors whilst I was stopped at the traffic lights in Harewood Place. I thought he was getting out so I pulled over and stuck my hazards on, blocking everything behind me. He never got out so I asked him what he was doing and he told me to carry on, waiving me forward. I knew at that point I wasn’t taking him any further and asked him to pay up and get out. We started arguing and I jumped out and started shouting at him whilst everyone in the McDonalds enjoyed the show. He was accusing me of all sorts and reckoned it should only cost a tenner to Enfield from Victoria and that he’d done the trip many times before. I changed tactics and started talking to him more gently saying that I was trying to earn a living to support my family and was he always in the habit of ruining cab drivers nights etc etc and he eventually came round to my way of thinking, paid up and nearly got run over in Oxford Street as I drove away. I think I’m getting better at spotting the nutters and dealing with the situation before its too late and I’m caught out in the sticks seriously out of pocket.

The best four days of the week are upon us now so hopefully I can earn plenty and have a few stories to tell you over the next week.

Check back soon. LC

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Get Well Soon Ed

Hello everyone and apologies for the slow down in posting but as I said in the last one I’ve been otherwise engaged. Talking of which I recently spent a few days out of town visiting aforementioned person and enjoying the delights of the east coastal towns of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. Being an ex-seafaring person I took the opportunity to do a bit of boat-spotting and visiting in the ports of Felixtowe and Lowestoft and all those happy memories from my days gone by came flooding back. I think you have to have done it to appreciate it. I also bought a souvenir boat to go with my ever-growing collection in my maritime themed bedroom. We also visited the model village in Yarmouth and I was overheard saying that it was similar to the one in Beaconsfield to which the village person said “yes but this one’s better than Beaconsfield”. I’m not sure about that but will have to check it out again some day.

So as my annual trip to Spain approaches I have to say I don’t really fancy it this year. I could think of a few better things to do instead of sweltering in 90-degree heat for a week with my mother but as it’s an annual commitment then I’ll just have to grin and bear it.

While I’m on the subject of family may I just mention my cousin Ed who is recovering in hospital in Northallerton after a serious operation. Me and all my family wish him a speedy recovery after a very serious scare and our thoughts are with him, his mum and dad and his brother and sister at this time.

I’ve had some really nice jobs since I last posted.
Saturday the 2nd of August saw me sitting third on the South Kensington rank when a lady weighed down with shopping bags approached the front cab with a piece of paper. He shook his head and she approached the next one. He also shook his head and finally arrived at my window. The piece of paper was illegible but rather than refuse her I asked where she was going. In a heavily Russian-accented voice she asked for what sounded like the Pilsbury International Terminal. “Never heard of it” thought I, but never one to give up – in my thirst for knowledge- I took another look at the paper and noticed it was a map and ringed on it was an area east of London, not east London but east of London so putting two and two together I said “do you mean Tilbury??” “Da Tilbury” she exclaimed. I’d done a trip to a passenger ship here many years ago so I knew exactly where she wanted. Funnily enough on that occasion it was also Russian. I told her the fare would be in the region of £100 and she tried to haggle me down to £80 but I said no and off we went. The journey was uneventful but very pleasant and more maritime memories came flooding back as I approached Tilbury docks, as this was where I went on a ships visit as a student of the sea school in Gravesend in December 1978. (For any merchant sailors out there the visit was to the OCL container ship MV Discovery Bay. ) As I arrived at her ship the meter read £98.80 so not a bad estimate and she handed me £95 in notes and started fumbling about for the rest so I told her to forget it. As I was preparing to leave a couple emerged from the vicinity of the ship and asked if I was for hire. Now I’m not supposed to pick fares up outside the Met but as they only wanted to go locally I agreed to take them and I dropped them at the Park Inn at Thurrock and then made my way back to London.

The following night I was having a coffee with Chris at Marylebone Station and after we finished he went towards Paddington and I drove onto the station rank at Marylebone. A guy came out and asked if I also did trips out of town, “yes I do, where would you like to go?” I answered, barely able to contain my excitement. “High Wycombe” I got straight on the phone to Chris to gloat about a job which could have been his had he gone on to the rank ahead of me and he was well gutted.

I’m calling on all cabbies to help me out with something here. There’s a cut through from High Holborn via the archway to the Renaissance hotel, which ends up in Lincolns Inn Fields. Chris told me about it the other night and I had to go and see for myself. From what I can see it can be done both ways and is not illegal (as far as I can tell). Can any of you confirm this? I would imagine it’s used all day long when the traffic’s bad but there’s not much call for it at night. It’s a bit like the one at Lower Robert Street onto Savoy street, now there really is a “blinding little cut through” as my knowledge mate Noel used to say.

I recently had some trouble with my iPod and wasn’t able to connect to iTunes. I tried everything such as connecting to other computers and even went to the Apple store in Regent Street but the queue was too long. I eventually found an alternative program on the net called Annapod and bought it online and it now works fine and I can edit and add tracks to my heart content. Chris came round to add some songs to his iPod and when I hooked it up and tried to do a few transfers his whole iPod got wiped, all 2 and a bit thousand songs gone. He was quite philosophical about it, the old chris would have gone mental. He went off to work and I attempted to recover all the lost songs, which I eventually found in an Annapod folder so if any of you have the same problem connecting to iTunes I suggest this program, it’s only about fifteen quid.

I was visiting my girlfriend at her place of work in the St Johns Wood area when we decided we’d like fish and chips for lunch. I had parked the cab up in a side street and didn’t want to lose the space so decided to hail a cab in Finchley road. As a silver TX2 stopped for me I asked him if he minded taking me to the Seashell in Lisson Grove waiting and bringing me back and also did he mind the smell of fish and chips in his cab. I think he was going to refuse me but thought that it would probably be a nice job money-wise and agreed. I never told him I was a cabbie and he started giving me all the cabbie spiel to secure a better tip at journeys end. I just smiled to myself and humoured him. When we arrived at the Seashell I asked him if he fancied a portion of chips but he declined. They never had any rock salmon ready so I had to have cod, which is my least favourite fish. I made my way back to the cab, which had turned round to face the way we had come for the return journey. Back at my destination the fare ended up at £12 and I gave him £15 and I wished him luck for the rest of his shift. The cod wasn’t too bad but give me rock every time.

So for the next 13 days I have to graft hard to get everything ready for my week away. I paid my cab yesterday. For the last 6 weeks I have paid on time and have found it so stress free as opposed to those weeks when I have to find the best part of a grand. The genial Irishman has left the garage due to ill health and there is now a very efficient girl in the office called Nicola. I just had a new set of ads stuck to the side of the cab yesterday, which is already turning heads. I also asked the owner to consider me for the next TX2 that becomes available as I plan to make regular trips to Suffolk to see my gf who lives there. The new Mercedes Taxi is now out on our streets but I have yet to see one. I’ll be monitoring the feedback over the next few months and may even decide to get one of them. Watch this space.

The New Mercedes London Taxi

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Theres nothin like a muffin

Hello again to everyone. That was a long three days!!!!!

I said I wouldn't mention it but I will but won't name any names. I've been in a new relationship over the last few months and all my available time has been taken up with seeing this fantastic lady. She doesn't want to be mentioned on here so I won't say too much only that the last few months have been fantastic and I hope there are many more months and years ahead for us. That's all your getting from me on that subject.

My kids are all doing well in their various stages of life. My eldest son is still working for a top diamond company in the west end and has been moved from the IT department to the engraving section.

My second son, Michael, has been going to college over the last 9 months and has been studying building (plastering, brick laying. Carpentry etc). He has now landed a well paying semi-skilled labouring job and is really enjoying having money in his pocket. He's still playing darts and is thinking of stepping up to a higher level.

My daughter, katie, has just flown to San Diego to spend six weeks with her mother. Her grandparents have also gone for the second year in succession. When she returns she has a place in college to study photography.

I have been doing what I do best. Cab driving. I work pretty much the same hours every night and take pretty much the same money.

I recently had to swap my cab for another while it went up for it's six monthly inspection. When I got it back they had fitted a new steering wheel (no idea why) a new fuel cap (no idea why) new tyres all the way round and I think they've messed with the fuel mixture as it seems to run smoother. One thing they haven't touched, and for the life of me I don't know how they can get away with it, is the suspension. The non-existent one I'm always complaining about. To back up my complaint, the second passenger I picked up after getting the cab back said to me "Is your suspension knackered?" I started telling him my concerns and he concurred. He said he could feel every bump and seam in the road. All the other passengers I pick up are probably being polite by not saying anything about it but I would rather they did as I would end up finally leaving that garage for another. Chris is always saying that I must be a mug (but his word always starts with a C) for putting up with it but that's what I do, I take it and take it until I finally blow and do something about it. My annual trip to Spain is coming up on the 10th of September and I may use that as the excuse I need to finally move on by not returning to collect the cab on my return.

I’ve still been stopping with Chris for a meal or coffee break most days. We have three or four places where we’ll stop on any given night. Starbucks in Piccadilly is a regular as they have plenty of parking spaces outside and a fantastic selection of cakes and sandwiches to chose from. We’re pretty partial to the lemon and orange muffins but my favourite is still Rocky Road although lately I have found it way too sweet. One day last week I bought the coffees (Large lattes) and as I handed one to Chris as he sat in his cab he promptly dropped it on the floor, the lid popped off and all the contents spilled onto his carpet. He wasn’t best pleased.

As you all know I like to rank up on many of the railway stations to get my fares. The day before yesterday I was waiting on Kings Cross when an Arabic man came up to the window and asked for the Churchill Hotel in Portman Square. He proceeded to put a large case in the cab and got into the cab to push it further in. The door closed behind him without him touching it so I assumed he was done and drove away. He called out “Hey, what about my wife?” and when I looked back towards the rank a lady in all the Muslim gear was standing there with another case and frantically waving at me. Luckily the other cab behind me hadn’t pulled forward so I was able to reverse back about 10 yards and pick her up apologising profusely as she got in.

The rest of that shift went as planned and I reached my target at around 2.30, the last job ending up in Surrey Quays in South East London. I had my light on all the way back in to town but there wasn’t a soul about. The only bit of excitement was being caught as Tower Bridge was raised to allow a passenger liner that had been tied up next to HMS Belfast to leave the Pool of London on it’s onward journey. As it takes about 15 minutes to raise and lower it I stood outside the cab and watched the massive ship as it passed and all the passengers who weren’t sleeping decided to watch the departure from the decks and they waived at anyone who bothered to waive at them. Once it was on the east side the bridge was lowered and we all got back into our cars and cabs to continue on our way. I wondered where the ship was off to and envied those people on it.

Whilst on the London Bridge rank last week a pair of Catholic nuns were to be my fare. They asked to be taken to a convent near Jamaica Road which I had never heard of. As I left the station the left turn into St Thomas’s Street was closed off causing me to take an extended detour adding a good four or five pounds to the ride. Chris was on the phone to me at the time and slagged me off for “tucking them poor old nuns up”. When I arrived at the convent I knocked five pounds off the fare thus avoiding any further slagging and negative karma that may have been on its way to me.

I picked up an extremely drunk guy in Camden Town and he asked for Hendon. He told me he wanted Park Road so as I arrived I had to wake him as he had flaked out. As normally happens to waking drunks he didn’t have a clue where he was and started directing me all over the place. We finally arrived at his house after already having driven past it and he started looking for his money. At this point the meter was on £24. He had no money so we had to leave his house and find a cash point. Get to the cash point and he can’t find his wallet. Meter on £30. Back to his house to wake his unco-operative and pissed off brother. Meter on £37. Back to the cash point with his brothers card and the pin number won’t work. Meter on £44. Back to his house where he keeps me waiting like a lemon outside. I get out of my cab and bang on the door at 4am. He comes out apologetically with another card. I ask if there’s any point to all this and he says the card will definitely work this time. Back to the cash point. Meter on £53. No joy. I call him back over and tell him that he’s wasting my time and it’s costing him a fortune. I take him back home and get him to ring my phone so that I have his number and that I’ll come back when he’s sober and actually has my money which by now had reached £60. I drive away empty handed but go back the next morning after first confirming with him by phone that he had my money. This is the sort of crap that goes on during the night shift, who needs it?

Thursday 24th of July and I drop off an American guy in Golborne Road, Portobello and pull off heading for home. A young girl about 24ish frantically flags me down and asks for the notorious Wessex Estate about a mile away. She starts whispering into her phone (head turned towards the intercom which was on) “yeah, I’m on my way round, have you got it?” A drug run, I haven’t done one of these for ages. It’s normally blokes, which I end up leaving where they get out but as we arrived at the Ledbury Road side of the estate she handed me a twenty and said “don’t drive off I’ll be back in a minute”. I saw her enter one of the blocks and even saw the transaction take place with the hooded drug dealer. She was back in a few seconds and instructed me to return to where we had just come from. She spoke into her phone again telling the person on the other end that she’d “got it”. At that particular moment I felt a bit like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and thought how crappy the job could be at times. She’d given me a twenty to stop me from driving off (I know of some who would’ve) and asked for it back handing me a ten in it’s place which by chance was exactly the total on the meter. That was enough for me and I switched the light off and went home.

So the days are different but the stories are the same. Who’d be a London Cabby?

Check back soon for more exciting accounts of life behind the wheel of a London taxi.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Still here!!

I'm still out there punching.

I've had a few non-payers since my last post and my fair share of grief with drunks and losers.

One of the non-payers was picked up in Gospel Oak. She had a young guy with her but she was obviously the dominant one as she kept ordering him about. They asked to be taken to Camden Town but changed their mind on the way to an address not a million miles away from my home. Her phone rang and she told him to be quiet as it was her husband. The poor guy nearly crapped himself and while I was waiting at lights tried to open the door to make a dash for it. She started laughing and hurling insults at him because of his lack of adventure but he started panicking and just said "please let me out mate" to me. I took my foot of the brake and the doors unlocked and he was off running like a greyhound after the hare. She couldn't stop laughing and in retrospect she was probably laughing at all men including the one she was about to take for a complete mug. As we arrived at her address the theatrics began. "Some bastard's knicked my wallet" I just sat there thinking here we go again. "look, I'm a payer I am, I always pay my way but someone’s definitely knicked my money" I asked what was she going to do about it and she said she could ring me later and arrange payment. We were outside a place where there was a party going in full swing and there were lots of undesirables looking over at the cab and getting a bit too close for comfort so I decided that living to fight another day would be better than nothing so I gave her my mobile number and she got out. I went home and straight to bed and when I woke there was a missed call from a strange number so perhaps she did try and ring but as far as I was concerned I would never see that £18 again.

On a recent visit to the cab garage I had to part with five weeks rent, that’s a thousand hard earned quid. The owner was at the helm as his manager, the genial Irishman, was away somewhere receiving treatment for something or other. Once the money was paid the owner told me I was still four weeks in arrears. He came to that conclusion just by matching the payments I’d made with the payment book. I told him that the manager always has the dates written down wrong in the book as I’ve pointed out to him on lots of occasions and that in fact I was up to date. I have all the receipts of my payments at home and he asked me to bring them in next time I come. He also gave me a parking ticket notification and it was dated January the 6th. I could just imagine it lying buried under the managers untidy desk for weeks and then suddenly being discovered and put aside to give me after the two-week period where you can pay only £60 has elapsed. As the manager wasn’t there to explain we decided to wait until he returns but there’s no way I’m paying for someone else’s mistake. The actual offence is debatable too as the only thing I could think of was that I was photographed dropping someone off in a bus lane on Newington Green Road which isn’t an offence, and some jobsworth camera controller has decided to do me for it. The case continues.

I’m off out now to hand over another £400 to my mother in law (hi Jan!!) to pay for my daughter’s forthcoming annual trip to see her mother in San Diego.

I should be posting something later on this week so check back in three or four days.
Be Lucky out there.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I suppose I better post something as I’ll start to lose my audience. These are random musings from my notes.

I only had one fruitcake in the cab over the last few days. She was a young black girl who went from Victoria Station to The Angel Islington. She was talking on her phone and then started shouting out at the top of her voice. Chris was on the phone to me at the time and he said “What the f*** was that?” I turned round and asked if she was OK and she said in a near-normal voice “yes thanks, how long till we get there?” I said about 15 minutes and she shouted out to me “well put your bloody foot down mate, I’m in a hurry here” All the way there she was saying stuff like “Can’t you go faster?” or “Overtake that car” or “That other taxi is going faster, can’t you keep up with him?”. I never answered her once as I don’t think she was looking for an answer as in my mind I think she was a bit of a nutter, someone who had issues. The only concern I had was if I was going to get paid. The fare was £20.40 and when we arrived she gave me a £20 note and a £2 coin and said in a near-normal voice “Thank you driver, there’s a little extra for you for getting me here so quickly”. The rest of the shift went OK and I did some nice jobs. The last one was a fellow Leeds United supporter who I took to Kew Gardens and we were talking football the whole way there. He gave me a £5 tip on top of the already expensive fare. There are all-sorts of people out there and in this job they’ll all pass through the doors of my taxi at some point or other.

Work last Thursday was better than the last few days. I started at about 7.30 and was done by 2am. Best job of the night was from town up to High Barnet. On the way back in from Barnet a girl flagged me down at Golders Green and wanted to go back out to Edgware. She wanted a price and I told her it would go about £20 to £25 on the meter. It went £24.60 and she waited for the 40p change from £25. I don’t expect tips ever and am never amazed at when people don’t give them. Australians and Spanish people are notorious in the cab trade for not tipping. On the flip-side of that some people go way over the top sometimes. I once picked a guy up and dropped him a short distance. The fare was about £3.60 and he gave me a £20 note. I said I was struggling for change and he told me to keep it and walked off. A few of them a night would be fantastic but they do come around every so often.

The Friday night shift was extremely busy, as one would expect. I met up with Chris at the Astral in Horseferry Road (Tony’s place) and I had a nice tuna and sweetcorn baguette with a custard tart and a latte. We sat outside a pub round the corner where in about an hour we could see all the punters slowly deteriorating through drink. They seemed to be having fun though and it made me think of how I seem to spend my life sat in the cab watching other people have fun. It’s about time I had a little bit of fun myself.

There was a lot of police activity around Baker Street Station last Saturday. From midnight all alcohol was banned on public transport and a party on the Circle Line was organised by the public in one final act of defiance. There was a lot of trouble but I managed to avoid it. Chris kept ringing me as he was in the area. We stopped for a coffee in Berners Street at around 9.30 and from about 10 until I finished it was non-stop work going here, there and everywhere. The last job ended up in Dulwich Village and the man was well drunk and had a really peculiar smell, which filled the cab. I had to drive with the window open and kept sticking my head out to get lungfulls of fresh air as I thought I was going to vomit. I rang Chris and told him and he said "just pull over and say "Oi mate, get out of my cab will you, you stink and I can't stand it" that's something he would say but I am more diplomatic and just carried on. By the time we got to Dulwich the man had passed out and I think I had turned green and I had to shout at the top of my voice three or four times to wake him. He paid me OK and on the way back in I opened all the windows in case I got another job.

Last Tuesday I ended up ranking after each job and waiting for long spells before getting my next job and then the job would sometimes only go a short distance and yield a couple of quid. The last time I ranked was the longest as I made the fatal mistake of getting myself boxed in at Paddington. I waited for almost a whole hour I did eventually get a job at around 1.15am and it took me over to Bethnal Green in the east end. The roads were deserted at that time and I was there in no time. I came back through the City and had a look on the Liverpool Street Station rank but it was also full of hopefull cabs waiting for the next Stanstead train.

I had a bit of a disagreement with a big African man at Victoria. I was on a feeder rank, not the main one, and he walked over and asked me how much it would be to take him to Lewisham. I hate going to places like that as it's such a dump. I said "about £30" and he said "ok can you do it for a fixed price of £20" and I replied "absolutely not" so he walked away and crossed the road and started getting some enormous suitcases out of a car. He crossed back over and approached me again and said "OK we go to Lewisham for £30". The price I suggested was only an estimate and I told him that the fare would be whatever the meter showed at the end of the journey. He started to argue that we had made a deal and I had said £30. I said we hadn't made a deal and that the final price would be whatever the meter showed. All this exchange of words was done in a heated manner with lots of arm waving and pointing. At the end of it all I told him that I wouldn't be moving from where I was unless he handed over at least £35 upfront. He didn't agree he should do that so we had another heated exchange and finally I told him to take another cab. The line up ahead of me had moved on so I drove forward leaving him to have the same argument with the cab behind me. I'll take anybody anywhere they want to go but I have to be sure they have the means of paying. The days of me just taking anybody anywhere without verification of funds are long gone.

Monday was a very busy shift as there were some awards on at a hotel in Vauxhall and there were quite a few after parties scattered around making it pleasantly busy for a Monday. I was on the road by 7pm and got my first job out on Maida Vale almost straight away. The second job was a strange one. A lady from Victoria to round the back of Harrods. On the way there she starts telling me about how her Mercedes had just been stolen and that she never had insurance for it. She wanted to know if she took out a policy straightaway would she be able to make a claim. How the heck should I know and why didn’t she have insurance in the first place. By the way she talked she had all the qualities of a loser and I got a feeling the ride wouldn’t be straightforward. When we arrived she started fumbling about for money and after only a few seconds of looking she declared that she’d lost a tenner she had in her pocket. She asked for my number and said she was only going to be in this place for an hour or so and that she would have money by then (call girl?) so I could run her back to Victoria. I thought to myself that it was only a fiver so if she never rang me then it wouldn’t be the end of the world. She never did ring me so I was a fiver down after only my second job. The evening could only get better. I did a few more jobs then stopped for a bite to eat at another well-known cabbie haunt, The Piccolo in Mayfair. That was where Tony started out and then left to open The Astral. So, due a bit of luck, I ranked on the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane and got a job out to The Holiday Inn Ariel by Heathrow Airport which paid £52 and made the night a bit easier.
The cab rent is due Monday and my brake pads need doing as they’re almost down to the metal when they were last checked. That’s all folks.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Not A Happy Bunny

(Only True Leeds Fans Will Understand The Next Few Lines)
It was the first leg against Carlisle all over again. Freedman and Beckford were invisible. All those thousands of Leeds fans disappointed, no, gutted, distraught, crestfallen and probably even suicidal. That’s just Leeds United Football Club for you. The misery is unbearable and I don’t want to think about them any more until next season, it’s just too harrowing.

On a brighter note I almost accepted a pair of soiled panties as part payment for the fare tonight but then decided I needed the money more. I picked up a couple of thirty something women. Both had a skinful and they started trying it on with me from the word go. “would you do me?” said one of them in a broad Glasgow accent. If I’d been standing in a bar somewhere then maybe, no, definitely. But whilst at work and weary of these types of proposals I let her down gently by saying “my girlfriend wouldn’t like it”. They kept on and on and I got into the swing (once I’d got over my initial fright, shock, fear of fresh women) and the banter was fierce but it was never, ever gonna be more than that. When we arrived in Chiswick (yes even posh Chiswick has loose women residing there) the fare was £18 and the other one said “let’s call it a tenner and you can have the knickers I’ve got on” and started to lift her skirt up to remove them. I said “no thanks luv, I’d rather the money if you don’t mind” Then she said “why not, they’re clean” and I said “look, a jokes a joke but just pay me what’s on the meter OK?” They weren’t too pleased about being rejected and paid the fare and muttered some name under their breath. This sort of thing happens from time to time but to be honest I’d rather just have a boring shift.

Just paid my cab Friday. £800. That was painful. I also had the Xeta equipment removed as I wasn’t doing it justice and also the rent has just gone up to £19 per week. So it’s just me and the streets again until I feel the need to be part of a circuit again.
That’s all I can muster for now folks. More eventually………………..LC

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Marching On Together?

Leeds United, my beloved football team, played the first leg of the play-offs last night and I stayed in to watch it. Apart from a few memorable moments in all the years of supporting them, it’s mainly just been misery and despair. We lost the home leg 2-1 and now need to beat Carlisle at their place on Thursday night. Glutton for punishment that I am, I will be staying in to watch that too. Because of the football I never played darts tonight. We needed to win our last game of the season to win the league. The Captain was texting me to try and get me to come there instead of watching the game but it was no contest. My two boys went as usual and managed to easily secure a 12-2 victory thus winning us the league and promotion to the first division. Leeds should take a leaf out of our book.

Since I posted last Wednesday I have carried working on relentlessly.
I met up with Chris the next day for a Cornish pasty and a coffee at Marylebone Station. He’d also bought me a blood pressure monitor and we sat in the back of my cab taking our blood pressure in turn. Mine was 144 over 92 and anyone who knows about blood pressure will know that’s a pretty high reading. I had to see the doc the next day and she put me on some different meds to try and bring it down. I always have a chuckle to myself when I’m in with her because you get no sympathy whatsoever from her. In fact she is totally devoid of any emotions and just wants you out of there asap.

I’m still getting attacked by anonymous commenters for the infamous “20p” incident in Old Church Street. Guys, or Gals for that matter, there’s no need to be so nasty. When I read those posts again they seem fair to me. But I suppose it takes all sorts to make a world doesn’t it?

The other night I was driving back towards town after a fare to Camberwell when a guy flagged me on the Vauxhall one-way. He had a bit of paper in his hand, which always gets me excited. He said he was completely lost and wanted a cab ride out to Weybridge.

Me: You know that’s a £70 to £80 fare mate?
Him: What?? It’s not far from here is it?
Me: Yeh it’s about £70 to £80 from here.
Him: Well I’ve got no other option at this time so let’s go for it.
Me: No problem mate that’ll be £80 up front and you’ll get any change that’s due.
Him: We’ll find a cash point when we get down there.
Me: There’s one just round the corner, I’ll take you there instead shall I?
Him: Whatever!

I’d anticipated a spot of bother but as it turned out he got the money and paid me upfront. I got the postcode off him and once in the vicinity I asked what we were looking for.

Him: The Moreland Lodge Hotel 46 Portsmouth Road KT11 1BW

was how he told me the address.
There wasn’t a hotel with that name at the address it was the Cobham Lodge Hotel, obviously a name-change had occurred at some recent point.

Me: Are you sure it hasn’t changed its name?
Him: No, mine charges £55 per night that one (the sign outside said) charges £77.

I drove up and down Portsmouth Road twice before I decided the Moreland Lodge never existed anymore. He had the phone number on the piece of paper, which I rang from my phone. “Hello, Cobham Lodge Hotel, may I help you?” Came the reply. Nuff said. £75 and a receipt and I’m homeward bound once again.

Friday and Saturday night were typical. Lots of people going out to clubs and bars. Lots of drunk people coming out of clubs and bars.
The Elton John song “Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting” sprung to mind as I pulled up in the traffic in Fulham Broadway at the same moment that a crowd of young men decided to start a mass brawl. I felt a bit too close for comfort as these guys were laying into each other with venom. One poor bloke was getting pummelled by two men. He received a punch in the face, which knocked him backwards, cracking his head on the pavement. As his head hit another guy booted him full in the face. I must admit it was quite sickening. My punter, who I was driving to Munster Road, was shitting himself and started panicking. A couple of those plastic-coppers came running towards the fracas and to give them due respect they steamed straight in and started separating everyone. Within seconds three police cars arrived from different directions with sirens wailing and the group of lads started dispersing in all directions. With the action at an end cars that had slowed to observe moved off and I was able to continue my journey to Munster Road.

As I said earlier, tonight’s shift was short on account of me having stayed in to watch the football. I got out at 10pm then had to return home as my daughter had no keys to get in. I still managed a respectable nights takings and finished the shift off with an Underground job from Holland Park Station to Greenford. It was only one pickup and drop and I was chatting to the guy about his job and he said he was waiting to be accepted as a train driver where he will earn 41k instead of the 22k he was presently earning to collect tickets, sweep the platforms and take loads of abuse from the general public.

Should be back to normal tonight.

Be Lucky.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Running To Stand Still"

So we have a new Mayor now and we’re all waiting to see how his policies may affect us in either a good or bad way. I voted for him as I’ve always voted for the Conservatives for good or bad and one policy I will be looking forward to seeing the Mayor implement is ridding the streets of the Bendy Bus. You only have to get stuck behind a couple of them in Oxford Street to know they’ve always been a bad idea on our narrow streets.

One commenter on the last post said, and I quote “you need to stop being so lazy, who goes to work and has a break straight away?” Now rather than attack him back I should probably take a few moments to explain my situation for anyone remotely interested. I live with my three kids. For reasons best known to me I get very little help in running this home so it is inevitably down to me to do everything. I cook, I clean, I vacuum, I take the rubbish out, I do the laundry, I do the shopping and basically do everything that needs doing. So most days I’ve already done a full days work before I have to go and do my shift in the cab. The reason I may go straight to the Royal Oak Taxi Centre is because I fancy something different from what my kids have had and they are geared up to provide me with that something. Also, if it’s already after 8pm then that is a good time to eat as the work dies down till 10pm. This job is not like a 9 to 5 job where you do 4 hours then have a meal break; it’s unique so that you can work when it’s busy and take a break during the quiet spells. Me, lazy? I don’t have the time to be lazy.

Leading on from above, I haven’t had a day off now for over two weeks. The cab has been paid along with various other monthly bills and a saying I find myself quoting to people when asked how I am or how work is is that “I’m running to stand still” (which also happens to be the title of one of my favourite U2 songs). London is still recovering from the Easter break, which seemed to have gone on for much longer than other years.

Since I resumed the medication for my various ailments there have been a couple of times when I’ve had to rush home as one of the side effects has kicked in causing me to “run for the bog” Not nice when you’re on the other side of town and can only use your own toilet. Still, it seems to have settled down now and isn’t as much of a concern.

Work has been pretty uneventful and looking through my notes reveals only a few talking points. Last Wednesday I took a guy from Oxford Street down to Clapham. He paid me off and I drove all the way to Victoria before getting my next ride. There was a problem with the trains and an old fella asked me how much to Gatwick Airport. I quoted him £90 and he nearly had a heart attack probably expecting to hear about £30. “Don’t act so surprised mate” I said to him “it’s a thirty-mile journey and it’s around £3 a mile” He thought about it for a moment then said “I’ll do it for eighty” like it was his decision. I then thought about it, weighed up my options, which weren’t that good and agreed. We chatted most of the way until I hit the M23 and arrived at a deserted North Terminal at around 2am. He handed over the agreed £80 and got out of the cab. I looked on the back seat and there was a pretty large bag sitting there. “Oi mate!!” I called out to him as he was walking away. “You’ve left a bag on the seat” “It was there when I got in” he replied. So he’d sat chatting to me all the way from Victoria with someone else’s bag sitting on the seat next to him. “I thought it was yours” he added. Why the hell would it be mine? It’s a pity the guy I’d picked up when Chris left his moneybag in the cab wasn’t as honest. I pulled over a few yards away and inspected the contents of the bag and found, amongst various items, a laptop. It looked like a nice one too. My son told me it was Israeli, I forget the name but it began with Lan… or something similar. Anyway, there were lots of forms of ID in the bag and I rang the guy the next day. I returned it to him at his place of work in the Regent’s Park area and he gave me a £40 reward, which exceeded my expectations.

Thursday the 1st of May was Election Day and I waited outside a polling station in Battersea Park while my passenger voted. He was talking to someone in the street and I felt I knew this person and I was wracking my brains to know where from. It eventually dawned on me who this person was. When my passenger returned I asked if he knew the person. I then asked if he was a barrister. He said yes to both questions and I knew it was the defence barrister from my two-week jury service stint. He’d worn a wig and gown in court so looked completely different in his tennis attire. My passenger asked if he was any good and I told him that we’d acquitted the defendant so he must have been.

That same shift I did two nice jobs out into the sticks. The first one was from Berkeley Square out to Rickmansworth. I came back in from there to do a few more jobs before ranking on the Hilton in Park Lane. Two blokes came out and asked for Potters Bar. I drove through Potters Bar and eventually dropped them in a place called Cuffley and went home from there.

Monday was Mayday Bank Holiday and the meter was on rate 3 all day. I started at 7pm and worked almost non-stop until 2am. I finished up with my first London Underground account job in three weeks, Waterloo to Rayners Lane.

Before I went to work yesterday I saw on the news that there was an incident in Kings Road, Chelsea and never thought anymore about it. Once at work a few jobs took me down to that area and there were police sirens and helicopters and all sorts of things going on. It turns out that there was an armed siege going on at a house in Markham Square which resulted in the shooting and killing of a gunman

The rest of the shift was pretty uneventful and I ended it with another Underground job from Morden Station in south west London to Mornington Crescent.
More soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Unlucky Chris

Seeing as my mate Chris aka Titanic can’t be bothered to blog at the moment I asked his permission to let you all know what’s been happening in his working life of late.

He generally works the same hours as me and picks up the same variety of nice people, arseholes and scumbags. We’ll stop for a coffee and a bite to eat on most nights depending on where we are at any given time.

On the Saturday just gone we stopped for a coffee and a slice of cake at the Subway on Tottenham Court Road. We sat outside a busy pub where there was plenty to see and talk about and after about half an hour we went back to work. I trapped almost immediately, a job down to Battersea. He trapped a nice ride down to Hammersmith. After 30 minutes and a few jobs later my phone rang and a frantic Chris asked me if I’d found his moneybag, which he’d left on the back seat of my cab containing his nights takings. I wasn’t carrying anybody at that moment so I was able to pull over and investigate further. The bag wasn’t there. “It’s long gone mate” was how I broke the news to him. There was nothing I could do but to listen to the emissions of pain and rage coming from my phone as Chris vented his anger and frustration finally terminating the call to decide his next step. The guy I had picked up after our coffee break must’ve found it and thought it was his lucky night and decided to keep it. The road he had initially given as his destination, Inworth Street (no number otherwise I would have printed that too you robbing bastard) was changed to Battersea Park Road where he got out so as not to lead me to his front door. The bag also contained Chris’s Taxi License and would need reporting as stolen at a suitable Police station. I gave Chris all the information mentioned above and after dropping a job in the vicinity he parked up and went looking through a few bins just in case the guy had thrown the bag away after removing the cash (£150). He’s clinging to a last thread of hope that the guy will have an attack of conscience and at least send him the license back in the post but we’ve both decided not to hold our breaths.

As if that misfortune wasn’t enough the following day his cab broke down on the M1.
He was driving along and the cab started shuddering and vibrating. He pulled well over to the left and rang the breakdown and after 40 minutes they came and towed him to his garage. It turned out to be a collapsed wheel bearing which has now been repaired. His cab is now off the road as it’s due for its annual overhaul so he’s using his brother’s cab for the next week.

Chris's cab on the breakdown wagon

Since my last post I have been grafting away taking two steps forward and three steps back and getting nowhere fast. Three weeks behind with the you-know-what but that should be sorted by Wednesday.

I’m flicking through my notes to see what, if anything of interest, I can tell you.

8.4.08. I picked up the singer, Bjork, for the second time. I took her and a friend to the Odeon in Camden Town.

That same shift I also picked up a fare from Victoria Station and took him to the east side of London Fields. This is a park in Hackney and at 2.30am in the morning looks and feels a completely different place than by day. As we arrived at a deserted location in Martello Street there were a few undesirables hanging about and I suggested I drop my fare a bit further down the street but he seemed to know the area and that it would be OK so he got out there and I drove away. I hate that area of town.

9.4.08. I received a £120 fine in the post for being caught in the Kidbroke Park bus lane at 1.30 in the morning a few months earlier. Does anyone know if a bus lane fine starts at £120 or should it start at £60? The garage must’ve forwarded my name and I’m wondering if they overlooked it as the desk in the office is always in a mess. I couldn’t ring and ask as I owed them the rent. That always works against me and one day I’m gonna put it right. Yeah right!!

Bang to rights

Thursday 10.4.08. Having just been to the bank in St John’s Wood, I was driving back home, half asleep, when I drove into the side of a BMW on the famous Abbey Road Zebra Crossing. We pulled ahead of the crossing and the two occupants jumped out to inspect the damage, which luckily for me, turned out to be a few minor scuffs on the rear bumper. They decided it wasn’t worth pursuing and left it at that.

Sunday 13.4.08. Started at 6.30pm and after 5 jobs decided to stop for dinner. I rang my favourite Chinese Take-away in Battersea Park Road and ordered my usual Satay Chicken and rice but also asked them to add a handful of cashews to it. When I arrived at the shop the chef started arguing with the order-taker in Chinese waving his hands in my direction. She (the order-taker) gave as good as she got and finally turned to me and asked me to confirm that I’d asked for the extra cashews to be added. I’ve been having the same dish for the last few years and the chef seemed to not be able to accept that I could change the order to add an extra handful of cashew nuts. He needed to hear me confirm it and still didn’t feel it was right but reluctantly fried off a handful of cashews and added them to the already-cooked Satay chicken. I’ve been back a few times since and he is now OK with it, or at least I hope so and he’s not adding an ingredient or two of his own, if you get my drift.

Tuesday 15.4.08. There is a famous pub in Mayfair called “I am the only running footman”. Weird name for a pub but that’s the name it’s gone by since I’ve been a cab driver for 18 years and was probably it’s name for a long time before that too. It’s on the Corner of Charles Street and Hays Mews. I must have passed it a few thousand times but never actually got asked for it by name. Today a lady asked for it by name and I was mentally aware that it was the first time ever I’d been asked for it. I just thought I’d share that one with you all.

Later on in this same shift the doorman of the Holiday Inn Regents Park flagged me. He was out in Great Portland Street looking for two cabs and I was the second one. I put my meter on and drove round to the hotel to wait for the passengers. The first cab got his passengers and drove off. I sat there until I had £10 on the meter. There was no one in sight, even the doorman had disappeared. I got out and went in search. There were two different employees behind the counter in reception but all I got from them was “it’s nothing to do with us”. As stated in another post this sort of thing happens occasionally and different cabbies handle it in different ways. As there was no one to shout at I had to drive away empty-handed with £12 on the meter making a mental note not to be “had-over” ever again.

Wednesday 16.4.08. Only did half a shift as that tired feeling washed over me after 8 jobs. I bought a can of Red Bull as it is supposed to “give you wings” but after half an hour I was worse than ever and flew home.

Being a diabetic, I had my annual eye screening this week and was told that my blood pressure was too high. Since seeing my doctor I have had an ECG and a blood test and am awaiting the results which I should get this coming Friday.

I would describe myself as normal looking. Not rugged or tough-looking but not the opposite either. If someone like me flagged my cab down I would stop for them, especially if they had five carrier bags of shopping from Sainsbury’s. Yet this old codger was driving along Kilburn High Road at a snails pace, with his “Hire” light on, looked me in the eye and then roared off. What’s all that about? Karma for all the people I’ve done similar to? Maybe his gut instinct told him I might be trouble, who knows? I waited for another cab to come by but none did so I had to walk the half mile home with these five loaded carrier bags of shopping cutting into my hands.

Sunday 20.4.08. I did a job from Paddington Station to Huntsworth Mews. I ask fellow cabbies to run it in their head. Right out of the station, round into Sussex Gardens, straight through to Marylebone Road, left into Gloucester Place set down on the left. Simple. Yet the passenger starts accusing me of ripping him off, saying it was £1.60 more than the last time. As he had already handed me a £20 note and was waiting for the change, I decided that I couldn’t be arsed to explain why and decided tell him that he was talking out of his arse and that he was talking crap. He asked why he would need to talk crap and talk out of his arse and I told him he must’ve had a bad day and was looking for an argument. We had a bit of an exchange of ideas by which time I’d given him his change and told him to “jog on”. He’d probably previously done the journey by day on rate 1.

Yesterday, Monday, started off with a trip to the Public Carriage Office to renew my Taxi Drivers Licence or Bill as we call it, for the seventh time in 18 years. £285 is what I had to pay and will now have to drive around with a cover note until the new one is issued. The last time it took almost 6 months, as there were problems with the CRB check.

From the PCO I had to drive in search of the new Super Mario game for the Wii game system. My son, Michael, was with me and we drove all over the place until finally obtaining a copy at John Lewis’s in Oxford Street.

I started my shift with a meal at the Royal Oak. Chris was also there and we never drove over to Paddington until 9pm, which is pretty late if you’re hoping for a decent night. Needless to say I struggled to earn £140 after some really desperate jobs and went home deflated at 2am.

It’s now 5pm on Tuesday and I plan to be out much earlier tonight, as I must get my cab paid tomorrow.

Catch you later.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Continuing Women Problems

I don’t know if it’s just me but I seem to have been experiencing more job related hassles than I’d care to wish on anyone. Since the last post I’ve had another bad credit card, my iPaq died on me and I also had a slagging match with another woman. Welcome to my world.

My immediate concern is to pay three weeks cab rent (yes, that old chestnut rears it’s head again) by tomorrow before it becomes four weeks on Monday. The letter all drivers at the garage we’re given a few weeks ago obviously hasn’t had the desired effect as we’re all still paying the rents as late as ever. I was at one particular garage in the 90’s where if you hadn’t paid by the due day, Monday, the owner would ridicule you in front of whoever was in the office at the time. This gave you two options. You either ridiculed him back and told him where he could shove his cab or you paid on time. It worked for me for a time but I eventually left there and went to my present garage where my piss-taking, unfortunately, knows no bounds.

The credit card problem followed the night after the one I had in my last post. This one was much shorter but the same problem arose where the PDA returned a rejection message to which I assumed (what do they say about assumption?) that the problem was at Xeta HQ. I let her walk away with 7.80 on the “hickory” and after speaking with someone at Xeta realised I wasn’t getting my money for this job. That’s definitely the last one I do for a while. I’ve refused three or four since.

My iPaq 5550, which operates my satnav and my AtoZ mapping software let me down this week. For those of you familiar with PDA’s, the screen, as it gets older, needs re-aligning with the tool provided. I’d already re-aligned the screen a few times in the last few months so it was obviously on its way out. It finally refused to realign so I had no option but to buy a new one off ebay. This arrived a few days ago and I’m back up and running now.

The Slagging Match
I was sitting on South Kensington rank messing about with the faulty PDA. I looked up and the front cab drove off empty leaving me with a drunk mess of a lady. She could barely speak she was that drunk. I’m not going to drag this one out but after three different destinations we ended up in Barnes. The meter showed £20.20. She only had £10. OK so we’ll drive to the nearest cashpoint and get the rest methinks. That’s all the money she had and wasn’t able to get anymore from anywhere. She had this like-it-or-lump-it attitude that finally started me off. Before I did I rang my daughter and told her what was about to happen. She put her phone on loudspeaker which added another half a dozen listeners as there was a gathering at my house for the recent Wrestlemania live screening.

Me: So, you haven’t got any money?
Her: Nope
Me: You’re rat-arsed right?
Her: Yep, I’m rat-arsed.
Me: So you can spend all your money on drink but when it comes to paying the cab driver it’s tough shit then is it?
Her: (silent)
Me: People like you make me sick. I’ve got kids to feed and bills to pay…
At this point she switched to hysterical mode and started screaming and ranting that she also had kids and that she worked 12 hours a day for little money blah blah blah.

Me: So why are you getting a cab if you can’t pay? I’m driving you to the police station.
More screams and hysterics and her mobile phone came flying through the partition.
Her: Take my fucking phone I don’t want it.
Me: I don’t fucking want it either (throwing it back at her).

We were both ranting at the top of our voices and the audience back at home were laughing their heads off. I knew I wasn’t going to get any more money out of her so told her to just get out. She remained sat there still ranting. Barnes is an extremely posh area and our shouts and screams were now beginning to alert the locals. Heads were appearing at windows and curtains were twitching. I got out and walked round to the kerb side, opened the door and told her to hop-it. As she got out she squared up to me. She must’ve weighed all of 7 stones, half my weight and only came up to my chin. I said something like “what, d’you think I’m gonna fight with you? Get yer arse home you stupid bitch” and got back in the cab and drove off. Again, more grief from yet another woman. Why is it only the women?

I finally made it to the cab garage on Friday. Again, nothing was said but it’s just as well I went, as I had to collect an appointment card for the annual tariff increase on Sunday. A tariff increase, to me, only means earning what I need that little bit quicker and getting back home to my creature comforts. I noticed the difference on the Sunday night when I did a run from Waterloo Station to Shepherds Bush. There was not a drop of traffic on the roads and the meter went up to £25.40, an increase of about 2 to 3 pounds.

I’ve just dropped my son off at college and have taken my cab through the wash at the garage in Willesden Lane. It’s gleaming at the moment, something it hasn’t been for a few weeks. All ready for tonights shift.
Check back soon

Friday, March 28, 2008

Who's Jonny?

Getting ready to blog

I have another cabbie friend called Chris who rang me the other morning about a problem he was having with his PDA. It had lost its charge after three days without use and had wiped off all his maps and satellite navigation software. I have had lots of experience re-installing maps and software to my own and two other friends’ PDA’s so it only took me minutes to do Chris’s. Although us cabbies have “The Knowledge” it still feels like your left nut is missing when the PDA’s cack-out for whatever reason.

Later that night I did an Underground job on Xeta, which ended up at Canning Town via North Greenwich from Waterloo. From the final drop-off I had to drive to Tottenham to pick up my daughter and the satnav guided me through Twelvetrees Crescent for the first time ever. 50% of the time you can expect it to take you the wrong way and as I passed a sign saying “private estate” I thought “Here we go again”. Even the map shows the road is closed off but as I drove from one end to the other and found myself entering the A12 I was quite impressed. Do any East London drivers know if you can use this route during the day?

Wednesday saw me start at 4pm, the earliest I have started for a while. I had to go to the bank in St John’s Wood first and then got my first job from there. An old boiler, is how I could best describe her. She was 70-odd with rotten teeth, a Worzle Gummidge hairdo and a musky essence-of-piss about her. From the word go she never stopped telling me her life story, mainly the various ailments and medications she was on. She started coughing uncontrollably and announced she had some sort of virus to which I expressed my concern about whether it was contagious. I had to endure that all the way to Victoria where she then paid the entire fare (£15) in £ coins which I was in need of so was pleased.
As she got out two more fares were waiting to get in and wanted to go back into the thick of it to the Holborn area. As they got out to pay the fare (£10.60) one of the two women gave me a tenner and walked away. I was going to forget about the sixty pennies when she turned round and hurried back saying “Oh my God, I’ve got to give you more money. I’m a dickhead” she looked anything but a dickhead to me but I accepted the £2 coin she offered me and bade her farewell. For anyone comparing what happened a few posts ago I would say that the circumstances were different.

Being on this side of town and not having had anything to eat or drink since getting up, I drove up to Euston to seek out the Prêt a Manger there. It was pretty late in the afternoon so they never had a large selection of sandwiches. I sat outside the Novotel eating my food and watching everyone hurry about their business.

There was to be a big evening of International football this evening so it was inevitable that I would at some point get a job to the 60,000 seater Emirates Statdium, home of Arsenal Football Club who were hosting a friendly game between Brazil and Sweden. The Stadium, as it turned out, was filled to capacity so there was quite a bit of work there for a few hours after the game.

I stopped for a burger with Chris at Marylebone Station and, unable to get our favourite dessert of lemon cheesecake, we had to settle for a lemon soufflé type of dessert, which came in little ceramic pots that probably cost more than the contents. I meant to keep the pots as they make good ashtrays but inadvertently threw them out yesterday.

The last job for Wednesday took me from Upper Thames Street in The City up to Bowes Park. The extremely drunk man was trying to explain where he wanted but with simply mentioning the name of the area and his road I had enough to get him home. He was trying to talk to me about how he was in trouble with his girlfriend but as I couldn’t understand his slurry words I ignored him and he dozed off. He woke as I was crossing Seven Sisters road at Green Lanes and Manor House and started shouting at me to turn left. He thought he was further ahead than we were and it took a lot of explaining to convince him otherwise.

Last night’s shift was surreal. I actually felt like a cabby who could go anywhere, work any part of town and be just at home in un-charted waters.

Ist job was from Paddington to Dalston. Back through The City and a shortish one from Moorgate to Ensign Street. “Do you know Ensign Street?” asked the well dressed lady. In 1981 I chose to end my career in the Merchant Navy by handing in my naval documents at the office, which was at that time, in Ensign Street. I always regretted that decision and driving along Ensign Street always brings up that sour memory.

“Wilds Rents please driver” said the next passenger as she got in at London Bridge Station.

“Where the hell, no, what the hell is Wild’s Rents” I thought to myself. Don’t we have some peculiar street names here? I knew of a Perkins Rents near Victoria so it had to be a street name. Luckily there was a bit of traffic, which enabled me to check the AtoZ. It was only a few streets away and I was there in minutes and wondered if it would take another 18 years before I was asked to go there again.

Back on the rank at Victoria and in gets a nice lady. “Waterloo please. Oh look someone’s left their bag in the back” She passed the bag through the window and it looked valuable, possibly a laptop. When she got out at Waterloo I pulled over to inspect the contents of the bag to find a Dell Latitude laptop with all the accessories. There was also a business card with the possible name of the owner. I never rang the number until this morning and the laptop owner was pleasantly surprised. He thought he’d seen the last of it. He arranged a courier to collect it and promised me he would send me a “little something” for my trouble. Watch this space.

The circuit I do work for, Xeta, accept credit cards. So I accepted a street hiring to London Bridge, Westcombe Park and finally dropping off in Sidcup, Kent. The passenger that got out at Westcombe Park was the credit card holder and wanted to finalise the transaction there. The way Xeta works is that you can only process the card at the end of the trip. So, thinking all would be OK as the man looked respectable enough, I just took down all the relevant numbers and said I would do it at the journeys end. We arrived at the address in Sidcup and I drove away and pulled over down the street to complete the transaction. I tried three times to process the card and each time it was declined. £51.80 was a lot of money. I rang Chris up to tell him the story and I think his opinion of me dipped for a few seconds as he wondered how with all my years of experience I could allow myself to get caught out like that. As it turned out there was a problem at Xeta HQ and after speaking to a very helpful guy on the phone my problem was resolved but I learned a valuable lesson yesterday and that was to keep contact with the last man out of the cab until the transaction is finalised.

Heading back into town on the A2 I saw the columns of the O2 Dome all lit up. I thought there might be a concert on so decided to drive over there. The taxi rank next to North Greenwich Station had 8 cabs on it and I thought “What the heck, I’ll give it a go”. After about a ten-minute wait my passenger approached the cab. You try and mentally pick their destination but very seldom get it right. My hopes of a ride into town were dashed as she uttered the word “Kidbroke” I recently read somewhere on another blog that the local cab drivers frown on us central London drivers stealing their work and thought to myself if this is “their work” then they can keep it and after dropping at Kidbroke drove through the Blackwall Tunnel and up to Canary Wharf.

All the ranks were full but I trapped a pair of men between ranks. They wanted somewhere to get some food. “What about McDonalds” I suggested. “Not Macki D’s. Indian” said one of them. It was 12.30am and the only place they would definitely get an Indian meal was in Brick Lane. They didn’t want to go as far in as Brick Lane and had me running them around to various favourites of theirs which all turned out to be finished for the night. We eventually ended up in Brick Lane and I pocketed £20.

The work was beginning to dry up so I headed for Victoria and was in luck as a train had just arrived. A very energetic thirty-something asked to be taken to Bow. He talked non-stop about his job as a rep in Gran Canaria and how he used to be Jonny in Season 6 of Dream Team, a show I never watch but my kids do. I took his picture to show the kids and have posted it here. Anyone recognize him?

Heading home from Bow I trapped on Clerkenwell Road all the way to Sussex Gardens, ten minutes from home. It had been a good night all round and the quietness of the Easter week left firmly behind.