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 PrĂȘt 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