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.
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?