Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More Fodder

I bet you all didn’t expect another post so soon but as I have a bit of fodder to write about it’s best I do it straight away or run the risk of forgetting it all forever.

Following on from the last post which talked about Thursday’s shift, Friday was a bit of a washout as after only 8 jobs my daughter rang me from her night out in Wembley to celebrate one of her schoolmates’ birthdays. She wanted me to collect her as she doesn’t like travelling on public transport late at night. I don’t blame her either as it’s become virtually impossible for young females to travel anywhere without being pestered by yobbish youths. It gave me the chance to catch up with stuff at home including a full XP re-install on this computer. After a few months of it running like a snail it has now speeded up to nearly normal levels.

Saturday was business as usual for me. I was rolling by 6.30pm and most of the runs were pretty short but followed one another without any down-time. It was so busy that there were very few cabs in the west-end and doormen from various hotels were having to venture further away to hail cabs for their patrons. I dropped off in Coventry Street and the doorman from the Pastoria Hotel in Leicester Square quickly secured my services ahead of other people waiting to get in. Leicester Square is closed to traffic but taxis can access it via a barrier in Panton Street. The doorman told me that they were going to dinner on a boat on the river, possibly the Hispaniola, a very expensive Spanish restaurant. I already had the meter on since Coventry Street and as I pulled up outside the hotel the doorman jumped out saying he would fetch the passengers. And there I waited, and waited, and waited. I had £7 on the meter when the doorman re-emerged looking sheepish.

Him: Sorry boss but they’ve decided to walk down to the river.
Me: For fuck sake mate I’ve just sat here for ten minutes.
Him: All I can say is sorry; it’s not my fault.
Me: So who’s gonna pay me for my time then?

He shrugged his shoulders. This sort of thing happens every so often. The passengers get tired of waiting for the cab and decide to walk there instead leaving the cabbie out of pocket. Some of the better establishments will re-imburse the driver but most of them don’t. You can only hope that the same doorman tries to hail you later on when you can get your own back at tell them to stick it. I couldn’t wait for the next time and gave him a mouthful there and then. It’s always very cathartic.

After the theatre and dinner rush had died down I went to my favourite Chinese Take Away in Battersea Park Road for my usual Satay Chicken and fried rice.
After eating, the rest of the shift was as busy as the first half and I never stopped until I hit the second quarter of the “carpet”.

Sunday was a very busy day for me. At 6.30am I was just about to hit the sack when my brother Johnny rang me to say he had broken down in our mum’s car. He was at the Texaco in Hendon. I jumped in the cab with some tools and was there in fifteen minutes. The fan belt on the Peugot 205 had come off the pulley and I couldn’t undo the nut to loosen it. As there was only one pulley and the alternator I deduced that it could be driven without the belt. I jump-started it and followed him home and told him I’d be back later with a new belt and proper tools. I managed to get about 6 hours sleep and woke suddenly remembering I had the car to fix and had to get to the car-spares shop before it closed. That went without a hitch but as he was road testing it I saw he had no brake lights. The bulbs were ok so it had to be the pedal switch. It was now 4pm and the only place that would have that part was right next to Wembley Stadium where there was a major cup-final taking place between Chelsea and Spurs. Nothing for it but to go for it. It turned out OK as the game was still on and all the fans were inside. With the car fixed I spent a few more hours at my parents house catching up with my Dad, who was 77 last week, and my brothers and sisters who were also there visiting. After all the carry on of the past 12 hours I was in no frame of mind for work but with the cab rent begging to be paid I set off for work. I only managed 90 quid before I got pissed off and went home with the intention of starting early on Monday.

The early bit never happened but I did have a good sleep and woke with a bright outlook and a positive attitude for the shift that lay ahead.
Remember what I was saying in my last post about one thing after another happening to the cab? Well, I’d managed about 4 jobs when I noticed the steering wasn’t performing as it should. I checked the belt and decided to tighten it a bit. This was at Atlantic Wharf on The Highway in East London. By the time I’d reached Tower Hill the dashboard hat lit up like a Christmas tree and the power steering was non-existent. Luckily I hadn’t picked up any passengers and all I had to do was pull in off the main road and inspect the latest problem. It proved extremely difficult to steer the cab without PAS but I managed it and found that the belt had slipped completely off the pulley and jammed under the other belt preventing the alternator from turning as well as the fan. I managed to free it and re-attach it and do another job before it came off again in Victoria Street. I managed to put it back on again, rank at Victoria, blank the beggar who was sporting yet another new coat and trainers, pick up a job to Notting Hill Gate and drive half way up Grosvenor Place before it came off yet again. How I managed to drive those two people to Notting Hill without the power steering amazed me and they were completely unaware of what was going on. This was the last time I tried to put the belt back on as the minute I started the engine after re-attatching it the belt snapped. I had a spare fan-belt but it was too big so I tried to work without the PAS and gave up after two jobs and went home.

So this morning, Tuesday, I had no option but to go to the garage owing them three weeks rent as I hadn’t been able to earn it. Before I left home for the garage I remembered my son had just been paid so I managed to borrow enough off him to make up the shortfall and felt much better about seeing the owner face to face. The mechanic got straight to work and was done in about 15 minutes. I asked him to put some spares in the boot so that I wouldn’t have any more problems. While he was doing all the repairs I sat in the office with the owner and the manager and parted company with the three weeks rent. I made a joke about paying late and I don’t think they were too impressed as the manager handed me a letter that he was giving all his drivers. It read as follows:

To All Drivers

As a result of a large number of our workshop customers buying new cabs, our workshop is going through a rough patch.
This is likely to continue for some time, which means that we are totally dependent on the income we get from cab rentals.
In order for us to survive it is essential that all drivers pay weekly or at the latest two weeks.
This will help us survive and also reduce the number of breakdowns we are having due to silly things like belts, brake leaks and items that are normally part of the weekly check.

We would be grateful for your co-operation on this matter.


I suppose it is only right and proper for the garage to expect to be paid promptly and I left there promising to pay on time in future. Whether it happens is another story.

So, completely skint, I set off to work from the garage and managed to earn enough to get some nosebag for the kids and me.

I was back on the road at 7.30pm and the work was steady. I also needed diesel but had to wait until I’d earned a few bob before I could put some in. All the pumps at the Goodsway BP were out of order except for the one that sells the better quality diesel. £1.19.9 per litre was what the robbing bastards were charging so I only put a tenner in, which never lasted long.

I had a little look on the Kings Cross rank but it was full of cabs. As I turned right onto Euston road a lady flagged me down and asked for Golders Green which would keep me busy for a while. On the way back into town from Golders Green I picked up Michael Portillo on the Finchley Road and took him down to the Victoria area where he lives. He never spoke a word to me nor me to him and he was texting on his phone the whole trip. He did give me a £2 tip though so fair play to him.

I was practically at my target for the night when a guy asked me to take him from Boujis out to Sanderstead in Surrey. He rang his girlfriend/wife enroute and started telling her how he was offered drugs inside the club. Apparently, he was given a package and wasn’t asked for any money. On opening the package he saw it was cocaine and went straight to the toilets and flushed it down the pan. He was then approached by someone who asked for the package back. Panicking, he told them he had given it to a friend who had since left the club. He was then forced out of the club with a knife at his back and made to get into a car where he had to hand over a hundred pounds to pay for the drugs. From the way the conversation was going his partner was disgusted with him for not calling the police or taking any sort of action but he was trying to get across to her that it was only a hundred pounds and it had probably saved him from coming to serious harm or worse. She cut the phone off and I heard him say “fucking bitch” but I never got involved. We arrived at his destination he paid me off and that was that.

I headed for home but only got as far as the Tesco on Warwick Road when I was hailed. This guy was calling out to his friend who was in a crumpled heap on the ground and I was instantly on alert for some sort of bullshit. The guy who hailed me was saying that the other one wasn’t drunk and that he’d been kicked down some stairs and was hurt. All the other cabbies who’d pulled in for him had taken one look at the guy on the ground and assumed he was drunk and sped away. As my guy had the door open I couldn’t do likewise and thought to myself “Fuck it, it’s the last job of the night, let’s just see what happens” As you do!!
The guy that had been on the ground finally got into the cab and he looked in a bad way. He had blood all around his face and had to be helped into the cab by the other one. Once in, I set off for East Acton. It turns out that the hurt guy had got into some sort of scrape, had been given a good pasting and then thrown down some stairs and left for dead. The other guy had found him in a crumpled heap, offered to call the police or an ambulance but the hurt guy just wanted to get home. The non-hurt guy was a bit of a fruit cake and was coming out with all sorts of things such as “We never leave a fallen comrade behind” and “We’re muckers me and you” and when the hurt guy indicated that his partner might not open the front door the fruit cake said “I’ll get you in mate, don’t worry about that. An Englishman’s home is his castle, ain’t that right driver” he said to me. “Absolutely” I replied, humouring him. Anyway, I got them to their destination in quick time and had to help get the poor hurt guy out. Once out they paid me off and the fruitcake started again: “You’re a diamond you are mate, fanks a lot” and started shaking my hand and finally grabbed my head and planted a kiss on the forehead. That was enough action for me for one night and I set off for home.

Friday, February 22, 2008


The day out at Wembley a couple of weeks ago was really enjoyable apart from trying to get home after the game. I’d heard comments from some of my passengers about the problems getting away from Wembley Stadium after a game but never really paid them no mind. I’d decided to leave the cab at Willesden Green Station and take the train the two stops to Wembley Park. Me, my son and his cousin met up with my eldest son and another 2 cousins and their friends at a bar next to the stadium. On entering the stadium we had to go up about 10 flights of stairs (or was it escalators?) to reach our seats in the nosebleed section. I always get a euphoric feeling when I enter a football stadium for the first time and see the pitch and surrounding stands. The buzz I got from seeing Wembley was tops (obviously not as good as Elland Road but a close second). It is worthy of being our national stadium. The food and drink was a total ripoff though and it wouldn’t be out of order to bring sandwiches next time. The game was OK but nothing more and there’s a lot of room for improvement.
After the game, trying to get back to the station was an absolute joke. There were 86,000 people at the game and I would say more than half were trying to get to the station. Everyone was penned in and packed together like sardines. I got a bit claustrophobic and we backtracked and tried to go another way. In the end we gave it up as a bad job and got a cab back to Willesden. It wasn’t a black cab but a miniscab and the guy didn’t have a clue which way to go. He went into a “No Through” road off Forty Lane (Mount Drive if anyone’s interested) and I thought to myself that he must know something I don’t. When we got to the cul-de-sac with no place left to go but back the way we came my son Danny, piped up and started having a go at him but I felt sorry for the guy and told Danny to lay off him. I directed him through the Welsh Harp and we came out by West Hendon and were soon driving freely through Cricklewood and arrived at Willedsen Green. In future, and for anyone else out there planning to go to a big game at Wembley, I would recommend driving there. Even if you have to park well away from the Stadium it’s worth it afterwards and you’ll be glad you did.

The following Tuesday Danny and me drove up to Leeds for the home game against Nottingham Forest. I thought the game was pretty exciting, well at least better than games of late but again there is much improvement needed if we plan to get promoted this season.

So with two big events and plenty of days off in between it’s safe to say that I’ve been left potless and have spent the last seven days grafting away to try and catch up. For the person that asked if I’d paid my freight (cab rent) the last time I posted. It was paid but is now, you guessed it 2 weeks overdue with no chance of it getting paid until Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest where it will be three weeks again.

It seems that when I owe money to the garage, things always go wrong with the cab and I have to get the repairs done myself. When I paid up last time I asked them to service the cab. I went off for breakfast and returned a few hours later and was told all the things that had been repaired. A bolt had apparently snapped on the steering rack and I was lucky to be alive!! A comforting thought. New brakes had been fitted, door hinges lubed, a couple of new tyres put on but as I drove out of the garage it still felt like a heap of shit to me. I filled up at York Way Total garage and went to work. I started smelling something which was filtering it’s way into the cab. The temperature gauge was on the rise so I knew it was coolant escaping from somewhere. I drove home and inspected further. The bottom hose had split near the jubilee clip. Do I drive all the way back? Nah. Out comes the trusty Swiss Army Knife. I cut the hose up to the bad bit. There’s just enough hose left to go back on. It will need attention but I’ll get the mechanics to sort it as I’ll be paying the cab on time, won’t I? Nah. It barely lasts a week. Now I owe one weeks rent and I don’t have it as I’ve just blown a fortune in the Elland Road Club Shop. (New kit and a tasty looking hoody for Danny and a supersized LUFC mug for me to enjoy supersized cups of tea in) I ring the local car spares place in Willesden but they don’t do cab spares. I drive down to the Royal Oak Taxi centre in my sons car but there isn’t a garage down there anymore. I need to work and earn money but the cab’s fucked. Why do I do this to myself? Shall I ring the garage and tell them to come out to me and fix it? I can’t coz they’ll want the rent. “What a loser” I think to myself. I’ve always been crap with money and probably always will be. Think!! Think!! Who’ll have a spare bottom hose? Shall I ring Supermechanic? He’s got a TX4 so it’s probably completely different. I need another cab garage. I try Shirland Mews but that garage is long gone and has even been pulled down and had flats built where it used to be. I think of one in Kilburn but that’s not there either. There’s one in Dersingham Road that I’ve been to before I’ll try there. Alleluiah!!!! They have it. Now for some reason I’d got it into my head that it was the top hose so after parting with £12.50 I happily drove all the way home from Cricklewood thinking I would be on the road within the hour. Not so. One look at the damaged hose told me I’d bought the wrong one. Bollocks, double bollocks and treble bollocks!!!! A few deep breaths and a philosophical view on the situation calmed me down somewhat and I drove back to Cricklewood, parted with an extra fiver and came away with the correct hose. It was on in no time and it took about 5 litres of water to fill the radiator to the brim. As one problem gets sorted another one arises. A few days later the fan belt starts slipping. This is the one I put on a few months back. The alternator bracket was already at full stretch so I would need another belt. Almost two weeks cab rent due so I must do it myself again. The fan belt is easier than the hose to obtain and also at £4 much cheaper. I put it on with ease. I should’ve been a mechanic as I love getting in there and fixing stuff. That was a few days ago and all is well for now.

A few nights ago I was sitting at the traffic lights at Elizabeth Street and Buckingham Palace Road when the back door opens and in gets a scruffy looking Herbert. “Barking” he exclaims in a non-descript accent. The lights change and I pull round the corner and pull over. “That’ll be fifty pounds up front please,” I announce. “eh?” “Fifty pounds, you pay first” I say to the guy. He puts his hand in his jacket pocket and pulls out a hand full of shrapnel. “Are you taking the piss” I say to him, followed by “get out of my taxi” “No, no I have money” and pulls his wallet from inside his jacket. He did indeed have money and offered me a £10 note. “I need fifty pounds my friend” “Fifty?” “Yes fifty” Out came the other forty and we were in business. “Now I need beer” says the man to me “and telephone card”. It was after midnight and there aren’t many places where you can legally get beer but a lot of these late/all night shops will sell you it on the quiet. I set off thinking where I would be able to stop for him to get beer and could only think of Whitechapel Road as a likely place. Every few minutes he would call from the back “beer, I need beer” He already smelt like he’d had a barrel load and I kept saying 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes and he would reply “OK”. Eventually we got to Whitechapel Road and the first place he tried sold him 2 cans of Heineken. The way he was going on I thought he wanted a crate of the stuff but he seemed happy with his 2 cans and cracked one open immediately and took a big swig. “Ahhhh!!!” came a sound from the back. “Now I want telephone card” was his next demand. These sort of people get on my tits and I never bothered answering. He said it a few more times before we arrived at the address he’d given me but I just blanked him. He was reluctant to knock on the door and wanted to phone someone but had no credit. “I need telephone card” he repeated. I offered to ring the number on my phone. “How much” he wanted to know. “For you, nothing” and I dialled the number. I gave him the phone and he talked to someone in Russian. 2 seconds later the front door flew open and a big bald guy came rushing out and hugged my passenger. They were obviously pleased to see each other and forgot all about me. I already had fifty of the guy’s money and the fare was just £2 more so I never bothered waiting for the rest and drove off.

Tonight’s shift went extremely well considering I wasn’t in the mood for it.
The first job took me out to the Premier Inn at ExCeL East and I got a job from Canary Wharf back to Covent Garden so I was £60 up in the first hour and a bit.

I stopped for a kebab at Efes in Great Titchfield Street. I've been dining alone for a few weeks as Chris is on holiday in Thailand for a month. I ended up back near ExCeL later on with a job out to Beckton Alps from Victoria. The Aussie guy asked for a price and when I said “the best part of forty quid” he nearly had a seizure. Well we all know how Aussie’s don’t like to part with their money don't we!! I had to stop at the Asda cashpoint at Beckton and to save a few more pennies he decided to walk the rest of the way from there.

I drove all the way back to St James’s Street before I trapped again and this job took me to Bayswater after which I called it a night. At 1.18am the kids rang to see if I was in a good mood as they were in need of supplies (sweets and niceties). I came home and picked up Michael and drove to Tesco Express nearby where I parted with £16 for a basket full of happiness.

Halfway through typing this post I heard the mousetrap snap and went to investigate. Poor thing, he (or she) only wanted the bit of mature English Cheddar I left for it.
Pesky mice.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Alkies and Karma

I’ve been steadily busy since the last post. I’m now into a routine where I like to be out the door and in the saddle by 7pm at the latest. That way you get the busy spell leading up to the start of the shows at the theatres and after 8pm there’s a steady stream of people heading out to dinner or home from work. I’ve done a few nice runs out into the sticks. One was from Big Ben to Leatherhead, which was a change from the normal.

It was my birthday on Wednesday. I’m now 46 but feel like I’m 56. I have aches and pains everywhere and am always thinking the worst. I picked up a 90-year-old last night and he looked good for his age. He was enjoying life and even had long-term plans that you could quite believe he will achieve. My goals are much more realistic suchas, pay the cab by Tuesday, pay the rent every Friday. It’s not all doom and gloom though. I have two football matches to look forward to over the coming weeks. This coming Wednesday I will be going to the New Wembley Stadium for the first time to see England play Switzerland and the following week me and my eldest son are going up to Leeds to see our team play Nottingham Forest, always a great occasion.

My second son, Michael is between jobs but is now taking driving lessons once a week and really enjoying it. I haven’t played darts for a few weeks as there weren’t any league games but I shall be there this Monday where we play in a tournament arranged by our captain.

I managed to get to the garage soon after last post and bring my account up to date and had a few bulbs changed and the fan belt tightened. Since then I’m back in the same position and hope to be clear by this Tuesday. There are some funny noises coming from the suspension. Now some of my mates reckon I’m paranoid about suspension and that I think all the cabs I’ve driven have had dodgy suspension. I believe they have and that I must be one unlucky SOB when it comes to suspensions. Even after this present cab came out of its annual overhaul it felt the same and has steadily worsened. We’ll see what they say on Tuesday.

What else has happened in the last few weeks? Oh yes the Boeing 777 crash at Heathrow. Those passengers had a very lucky escape thanks to the two pilots. I can’t speak for other nationalities but British pilots always inspire confidence in me and give me a good sense of security so whenever possible I try and fly British.

I’ve been stopping for coffee with Chris on most nights. We mostly stop at Gloucester Road as there is a large selection of establishments to choose from but it all depends on where we are. A few nights ago we stopped at the Piccolo in Gresham Street in The City (Business District) and another night we stopped at Grosvenor Gardens in Victoria. Whilst at this particular place I took the opportunity to pop into the arcade to get some change. It’s frowned upon to simply go in and get change and then walk out so I often put a couple of quid in one of the slots. I had £12 in the bank on one machine and in all my excitement I hit gamble instead of collect and lost the lot.

A couple of nights ago I pulled up for this guy. On closer inspection I could see he was rat-arsed. The doors were locked as he tried to get in without speaking to me first (I hate that). He came to the window and couldn’t even speak coherently. He wanted to go out to Hackney but didn’t know the name of the road, the postcode or anything that may help me get him home. He may still be there now on that corner in Belgravia!!

A Saddam Hussein look-alike flagged me down in South Kensington last week. He had four cans of beer in his hands and looked a bit unsteady but not enough to cause me to drive by. Once inside, I wish I had. He was looking for his friend who had walked off and started directing me. He knelt at the partition and tried to get his big head in the gap but my screen was doing its job. He then started crying, yes crying. He was telling me that he was an alcoholic and that AA had fucked him up somehow. He then passed his beers through the screen and told me to have them (they’re still in my fridge) as he was trying to stop drinking. I felt sorry for the guy but also aware that I was just trying to earn my nights money with the minimum of hassle. We pulled into Reece Mews where he told me to wait while he checked at a house. “Will you wait for me?” “Of course I will” “D’you promise?” “Yes” Man gets out trying to leave the door open but the camber in the road is enough to partially close the door but keep the “Door open Bleeper” bleeping. I roar off out of the mews with him trying to catch me. Sorry mate but I don’t need the grief.

This last week has been pretty quiet, for me anyway. Every night I’ve ended the shift a few bob short of my target. One day, I think it was Monday, I could do nothing right, I’d rank up at Victoria or South Kensington, wait longer than normal and then get a job going just around the corner. Yesterday took the biscuit as I did about 25-30 minutes on Victoria only to go to the Hesperia Hotel, which practically adjoins the station. I moaned a bit and got a fiver for my troubles.

Two streets from home, a few nights ago, an oriental-looking young woman hails me. Now, I’m like a few hundred yards from home but open to offers if it’s gonna be worth my while. She wants to go to Hounslow she says to me climbing in the back. On closer inspection she has a loser-quality about her and I’m already thinking to my self “get the money upfront”. I didn’t even have to ask her as a young guy appeared from somewhere and said “Don’t take her, she hasn’t got any money” She screamed something at him and got back out and stormed off down Salusbury Road. Chris was on the phone to me at the time and we laughed at the close call. I’m probably due a bit of grief but hopefully not too soon. A lady I took to Camberwell last night gave me a twenty and two tens for a £22 fare and I gave her one of the tenners back. “You’re honest” she said thanking me. “It’s the only way to be” I replied. That should give me some good Karma.