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 PrĂȘt 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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

All Egged Out

Easter Sunday came and went without Easter Eggs this year. About a month ago you could have bought three for three pounds but as the last few days before Easter approached the prices at my local Sainsbury’s in Ladbroke Grove rocketed to between four and five pounds per egg which saw my tighter side refuse to pay that amount. Is there no end to the greed of some of these supermarkets?

Work tonight was, in a word…..crap.
I started at 7.20pm and drove straight over to Paddington where it was in and out with the queue of people all the way back to the drop off point. My firt job took me to Ladbroke Road, not a great job but near enough to return to Paddington asap.

The next one went a little further. Through Hyde Park to Beaufort Gardens. From there it was better to try my luck at Victoria but I only made it to the Coach Station before I picked up three ladies to the Park Plaza Riverside.

I dieseled up at the BP in Vauxhall Bridge Road on my way back to Victoria and paid £1.17.9 per litre. It’s getting stupid now.

A longish wait at Victoria only yielded a short job to Huttons Hotel in Belgrave Road and I was legalled-off to the tune of £4.

Back at Victoria and a similarly longish wait saw me take a couple to the UCH (University College Hospital). The lady was in some sort of distress and spent the whole journey doubled over and wincing. I never asked. It’s not my style.

I spent this morning downloading some Spanish songs that had taken my fancy. I made a Spanish playlist for my iPod and played it the whole shift. There’s one particular song I heard on YouTube last week and that one got played the most. It was a song by Alejandro Sans called “Se le apago la luz” and from what I can gather is about someone dying after a road accident and is very sad. Nice tune tho!

I stopped for a bite to eat with Chris at Gloucester Road. Burger King followed by two maple/pecan cakes from the Tesco there hoping to break the space/time continuum, in other words to change my luck. It must’ve worked as after 10 minutes on the South Kensington Rank I got a job down to Upper Richmond Road.

There weren’t many people about as I drove through Putney and along the Kings Road so I decided to stop wasting diesel and fight another day tomorrow.

A final little £8 ride from Edgware Road to St John’s Wood concluded my shift and I went home to watch Max get buried alive in Eastenders. Best episode I’ve seen for a long time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Take another cab

In response to some of the negative comments about my actions relating to the woman at Old Church Street, may I say that, as in all walks of life, even us cabbies are humans. What gives people the right to mug us off time and time again? I can assure you that for every one time I may have lost my cool there are ten or twenty times when I have swallowed the situation and done nothing but smiled. Something has to give from time to time and inevitably something does.

I was on a roll with the “something giving” last night when I threw a guy and his girlfriend out of the cab at Piccadilly. It was actually my fault but I couldn’t handle the way he spoke to me so he had to go. I stopped outside the Hilton Trafalgar and was asked to take them to Stamford Hill. I should’ve driven round the one-way system and back towards the river but I had a sneaky feeling that Piccadilly Circus was going to be traffic-free as it hadn’t felt like a regular Saturday night. Big mistake. As I drove up Lower Regent Street the traffic was backed up and I just knew I should’ve gone the other way. The conversation had stopped in the back and the fella called out “can we get out of this?”

Me: Not until we get to the top
Him: What did you come this way for it has to be the stupidest way ever to come?

Hackles started rising on the back of my neck but I knew he was right; I just didn’t like hearing it.

Him: You should’ve gone along the Embankment or something.

His girlfriend seemed oblivious to the tension and I heard her say “Ooh!! I love coming this way,” The neon signs on Piccadilly Circus an obvious favourite of hers.
He then continued to show his disapproval at the route and I’d had enough. I pulled over by Lilywhites and told him to get another cab. He wasn’t going to get out at first but eventually did after calling me a few choice names. It would’ve been a stressful journey for both of us so it worked out well.

At that point my daughter rang me looking for a lift home. She was at Tinseltown, a 24-hour bar-diner next to the meat market. I used to go there for my dinner break a good few years ago but now it has sort of become trendy and is full of all sorts of undesirables.

Tonight’s shift went extremely well as I had three hours with the meter on rate 3 when it would normally be rate 2.

The first job I did from Paddington took me out to Acton and on the way back in I trapped in Wood Lane going further in to Notting Hill.
Back at Paddington it was in and out and a scruffy looking man with Burger King in his hands asked to be taken up to Spaniards. I was going to ask for twenty up front but I never. He was talking quietly on his phone and it seemed to me like he was arranging a reception committee for me as I heard him say “I’ll ring you when I’m approaching”. Most of Spaniards Road is heathland so I was wondering where we would be stopping for my impending mugging when he told me to take a right into the former site of St Columba’s Hospital which is now, and probably has been for a long time, luxury flats. All’s well that ends well and he paid me £20.

The rest of the shift went without a hitch and I was finished and indoors by midnight watching Shameless with a tray of BBQ wings and a glass of milk.

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here and the meter is on rate 3 all day again so it should be another good shift.

G’night all.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Easter

What does it mean when you have to force yourself to write this blog?
Maybe Roy of Irish Taxi is right when he says I should write less but more often.
Anyway seeing as I’ve managed to open up a Word document I might as well do a post as it’s been three weeks since I last did one.

I’ve been busy just working away. The cab rent, amazingly is up to date and the old finances are doing well. That’s all folks!!!!!

Wouldn’t it be great if I could just get away with a post like that?

The truth is I have been working hard….too hard. I feel drained and worn out and in need of a holiday. Roll on September.

Looking through my notes for the last three weeks there’s a few jobs that stand out for various reasons.

Thursday the 28th February I started my shift at 6.50pm and was going well until someone upset me. You might find this account trivial but it took me a while to compose myself. I stopped for a lady on the South Kensington Junction and she asked for Church Street.

Me: What Church Street? Edgware Road?
Her: No
Me: Kensington Church Street?
Her: No it’s near here
Me: Old Church Street?
Her: Yes that’s it.

Off we go for the two minute trip. I turn into Old Church Street and there are roadworks and temporary traffic lights which I stop at. There are cars behind me now and the lights are about to change. She decides she’ll get out here. I reach up and stop the meter at £4.20. She hands over four coins. I tell her it’s four twenty.

Her: It was £4 when I looked
Me: Well it’s £4.20 now and the meter is on stop.
Her: But it was £4.20

The lights have changed and the traffic behind me is getting impatient. Horns are being honked. I feel the need to put this woman in her place.

Me: It’s £4.20. That’s what the meter says and that’s what you have to pay.
Her: Well, seeing as you’re going to be like that…

And she proceeds to count out the 20p in coppers. I say nothing and accept the shrapnel. She walks away from the cab and when she got about twenty feet away I shouted out: “Oi, you can stick this lot up your arse” and threw the coppers in her direction. They landed all around her as I drove off through the lights feeling immense satisfaction. Was that trivial of me? I don’t think so.

Sunday the 2nd of March was Mothers Day here in the UK and sons and daughters across the land, including me and my brothers and sisters, visited their mothers bearing gifts of some description or other.

Wednesday the 5th of March and I dropped off at Le Meridien in Piccadilly. An old codger cabbie in an old cart of a Fairway comes to my window and asks if I have a spare bulb for his “For Hire” sign as both bulbs have blown. He’d been driving around with one bulb for a few days. Surely that would be the time to buy another bulb wouldn’t it? No, much better to ponce one off a muggy cabby like me. He asked how much knowing full well I would say “don’t worry about it” and went back to fit the freebie. I hate spongers of any type.

Thursday the 13th of March I try a new Chinese Take Away in Denbigh Street, Victoria called Yum Yum. I order a Special Fried Rice and a Sweet and Sour King Prawn. £12!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At least a fiver more than all the other Chinese’s. It didn’t taste like it was worth a fiver more so I’ll put that one down to experience and avoid it in future.

Friday the 14th of March. I have to pay my cab rent and need a few quid to make up the money so I start work at 11am. I turn into Maida Vale and am flagged almost immediately by Jude Law. He wants the Wyndham’s theatre in the West End. The traffic is bollocks and I try three or four different routes before I give in to the London traffic. Jude settles in for the journey and spends the whole time on his phone talking to various people. He talks about work, his kids, his parents. I hear him mention his ex’s name. He seems oblivious to the traffic. I hear him say he has a rehearsal at 11.30 and think to myself “you’ve got Bob Hope and no hope of getting there for that time mate.”
We arrive at the theatre exactly 45 minutes after he’d gotten in to the taxi. He needs cash and goes to the cashpoint near the theatre. The people at the bus stop see him get out and instantly recognise him. They look at me with that “do you know who that is?” look on their faces but I give nothing away. He’s just another fare paying passenger to me. When he returns from the cashpoint the meter has clicked over to exactly £20. He looks up at the meter and gives me the exact money. I thank him and drive off.

Sunday the 16th of March I start work at 5pm. A nice job from Paddington to Tredegar Sq in East London gets the ball rolling. 7 hours later I’m on £176 and looking to complete "the bottle" (£200….don’t ask). I pick a guy up from Victoria who wants to catch a train from Marylebone Station. He spends the next few minutes on the phone checking train times. By the time we arrive he’s ascertained that he’s missed his last train and asks for and estimate to Bicester near Oxford. I ask how far it could be and he says no more than sixty miles. The tariff works out to £3 per mile on rate 3 but I don’t want to scare him off and say somewhere in the region of £150. He gives me the OK and off we go. I haven’t been on a motorway with the cab since I had the gearbox seen to. At seventy miles per hour a funny smell starts filtering through the nooks and crannies of the cab. The gearbox fluid must be seeping from the seal and is burning on the exhaust. I trust the cab to last the journey. The £150 mark is reached and passed. We’re still a good few miles away. The final meter reading is £196. I apologise and tell him it’s sometimes difficult to give an exact amout. He’s not bothered and gets the money from a cashpoint in Bicester town center. He pays me the exact amount. I’m ecstatic as I have earned much more than I expected. I put Toto on the ipod which is hooked up to the stereo and drive the sixty miles back to London.

Monday the 17th of March is St. Patricks Day. There are Irishmen and women everywhere. Most of them are wearing funny hats with Guinness symbols or Shamrocks or Harps. I’m flagged down by a group of them in Piccadilly. They want to go to Slough and ask for a price. I say between seventy and eighty pounds. One of them asks me to do it for seventy and I agree. We end up at the Shamrock pub in Langley, not quite Slough, but they pay me the seventy no problem and I’m happy with that. They bid me farewell and I drive back to town.

The Easter weekend is approaching and it should be a good earner.
I must remember to buy my kids their Easter Eggs tomorrow before they sell out.
Happy Easter!!!