Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas

Hi Folks!!
 It’s been a while since my last post. I’ll start with some non-work related news.
On the 1st of November Jane collected her brand new Fiat 500L from Chelmsford, trading in her three year old grey Fiat 500 we had come to know and love as Fiona, well more her than me!
We spent the next day babysitting her little granddaughter in Ipswich and after the parents returned on Sunday we set off for home in London. The A12 was busy, but then it always is at that time on a Sunday. The traffic was stop start for the first twenty miles but we eventually managed to get up to sixty five - seventy miles per hour. Jane had fallen asleep for the first time ever whilst I have been driving as she doesn’t trust anyone but herself behind the wheel. All of a sudden the traffic came to an abrupt stop and at the speed I was going all I could do was slam the brakes on and hope for the best. I managed to stop a cat’s whisker away from the car in front but the car behind us never. It ploughed into us with such a force that it pushed us into the car in front. At that moment all I could think of was “Oh my God, the car is only 2 days old”. I thought Jane would go ballistic but she was quite calm and told me to pull over onto the hard shoulder as did all the others involved, except for the guy who hit us as his car was completely destroyed on the front. He was helped into the shoulder by other motorists and I could then see he was quite an elderly guy who also had his elderly wife with him. She was clearly shaken by the whole experience and all he could do was apologise and tell me that he did try to brake but that the car wouldn’t stop (possibly going too fast?). Our car had received considerable damage but was still driveable. Long story short we all exchanged details and went our separate ways. We decided to get checked out at Chelmsford Hospital but when we got there the waiting room was heaving with a four hour wait so we decided to drive on to London and see how we felt in the morning. I’ve never been in such a serious collision in all my driving years; I’ve had many a near miss but never a collision of that intensity. The following morning I couldn’t move and neither could Jane. We decided to go straight to A&E at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington to get checked out. I was seen first. I was prodded and pulled and told to take painkillers and anti-inflammatories and sent on my way. Jane had a few x rays and was given the same advice as me. I suppose it could’ve been much worse. I think speed and braking distance were the only two factors involved here and I would urge all drivers out there to learn from my mistakes. Keep well away from the car in front and then if you do have to stop suddenly you’ll have more time to stop and may not get whacked up the arse by the guy following you.
Needless to say we’re in the middle of an injury claim, Jane’s car has, after 5 weeks in the garage, been returned in mint condition once again. We’ve also been for physiotherapy and assessed by an independent doctor. The driver’s insurance company has accepted liability for the accident so a pay-out is imminent. I would rather it never happened and now I take extra care when doing my job.
But a week later I was driving around the Marble Arch one way system when a cyclist veered into my path. I had no time to stop so I inevitably nudged him and he fell off the bike. My initial reaction was anger as it was totally his fault. I had a passenger in the back but that didn’t stop me jumping out and shouting at the guy who was just picking himself up off the road. I probably overdid the histrionics a bit and eventually calmed down. The road behind me was clogging up fast so I pulled into Great Cumberland Place to discuss matters further. I advised my passenger to take another cab as this might take some time. He was OK about it and even gave me his name and number as a witness. The cyclist was bleating like an old tart. He was a man of about sixty. I told him to get a grip but he insisted he was hurt. This had all the signs of another claim but this time it may go against me. For all I knew he was a top lawyer because that’s what he sounded like. After trying to fathom out what his angle was I just asked him what he wanted. I mean he was ok so why didn’t he just get on his way? He said he wasn’t sure if he was injured and felt he needed to get checked out. Right then, nothing for it but to take him to the very A&E I was at last week. I grabbed his bike, told him to jump in (which he did remarkably well for someone who “may be injured”) and set off for the hospital. On the way there he produced a clipboard with pen and paper and started writing down my particulars. By the time we got there he knew all about me, I knew a little bit about him and we both found out we lived about four hundred yards from each other on the same road albeit separated by Maida Vale.  I wished him well as I was removing the bike from the taxi and told him to contact me if need be. I haven’t heard from him since and often expect to see him as I drive towards where he lives but that pleasure has eluded me thus far!!

The cab has reached the age of three years old. The warranty has expired and it now needs 2 MOT’s a year as well as the annual inspection. It has developed a serious oil leak from the turbo unit and is losing serious amounts of oil; so much so that one of the mechanics gave me a five litre oil can to keep in the cab so I can periodically top it up. Normally when all this testing and overhauling is going on the garage give me a spare cab and I just get on with my work until my cab is passed and plated for another year but no spares are available so in order to keep me working I have to wait around the garage while the work is in progress then resume work. So on Wednesday last week I was called in so that they could prepare the cab for its first MOT. The owner, sensing my annoyance at being inconvenienced, offered to take me to the café round the corner and buy me breakfast whilst the cab was taken to the test centre. On our return from what was a hearty breakfast the mechanic informed us that they had passed the cab but a few jobs needed doing before it would pass the inspection the following day. A shock absorber was replaced and the oil leak I mentioned earlier needed to be dealt with. (It turned out to be a loose oil filter and a loose jubilee clip on the turbo hose). It also needed a new wheel and a thorough cleaning inside and out and it was then ready for inspection the following day. I left the garage to commence my evening shift and hoped that it wouldn’t get too dirty inside or out before the following day. As the inspection centre at Staples Corner was on my side of town I offered to take it there in the morning. The appointment was for 8am and by 8.15 the cab had passed and I was in the car park attaching the new plates, all quite painless. As I was out I decided to pop over to the garage and return the paperwork and give them the good news. Only one mechanic was there that early and I decided to let him look at a door lock problem I had been having with the cab. That was at 9am. By 1.30pm I wish I hadn’t bothered. He had dismantled the lock after removing the door panel and there were bits everywhere. It was patently obvious he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. He even got a new lock delivered and managed to break that one. The owner had arrived a short while ago and I cornered him outside and told him what was going on. He confronted the mechanic who in turn went on the defensive claiming the locks were both faulty.  After a little more messing about the mechanic came to the office where I was patiently waiting and said he would need to get a new lock ordered and delivered but for now I would have to manage with an unlockable door. Happy to get away from that icebox of a garage I went to work. From Thursday until today Wednesday I managed to work the cab OK but this afternoon I was sitting on the rank at St John’s Wood and a lady asked for West End Lane. She tried to get in but the door wouldn’t open so I had to open it for her from inside. As she got out and closed the door bits could be heard falling inside the door panel. She paid me and walked away and I got out and tried to open the door from the outside but the handle was loose like it wasn’t attached to anything inside. Obviously the piece that connects the handle to the lock mechanism had become detached. The garage was closed so now my whole evening would be lost. Some would say that I could work by making passengers walk round to the roadside to get in but if anything serious happened to them it would be my fault so I decided to go home and sulk.

So here I sit writing this blog and pondering over my lost evening’s work and my life in general.
Jane has been back in Ipswich for the last few weeks after quitting her job here. So although we are still an item we’re living apart and seeing each other when we can. We’ll spend Christmas together next week and then work towards finding a way we can be together again. I’ve thought of driving in to work from Ipswich every day but it’s just that bit too far and would add £40 per day to the fuel bill but other cabbies drive in to London from similar and even greater distances so who knows?

Anyway, it’s time to wish all my friends, family and readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2014. May next year be a better one than the last.
Take Care

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Don't Ask And You Won't Be Offended

Hi folks
Well, Dads send off couldn't have gone any better and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. I wrote the eulogy in the same style as I did the tribute on here, but felt I wouldn't be able to read it out so several of my neices and nephews took turns to read it.

We had the wake in a private room of the Beefeater in Kenton and there were over a hundred friends and family present. Me and Jane got absolutely wasted ( not planned ) , Dad would've approved ;)

The following day, nursing sore heads, we set off for Corfu in Greece. The island itself was very pretty and most people spoke English but the resort was a bit sub-standard and we really never enjoyed it at all.

The day after our return I took the 31 bus up to my garage to collect my cab. All the problems I mentioned in the last post had been, amazingly, fixed. New radiator, new differential on the axle, warning lights that kept coming on now stay off and a central locking issue has also been corrected. So that should keep me happy for a wee while.

I had to collect my mum and brother from Luton Airport yesterday and the journey back in was extremely juddery. The mechanic at my garage told me the shock absorbers have had it and they won't be getting changed until the overhal in December so I guess my passengers are in for a bumpy few months.

While I was there he changed a wheel which was bald on the inside and also did the tracking which should help the tyres last a bit longer. They also changed the ads for the umpteenth time so I'm now advertising The Aldo fashion brand.

A month on from that minor collision I reported in my last post and in true " litigious society" style it has now escalated out of all proportion. I had hoped that by not mentioning it it would go away but that was naive of me given the fact that it was mostly my fault. I had exchanged details with the driver concerned and he seemed totally ok after what was a non event of a collision but low and behold he's magicked up witnesses out of thin air and is also claiming he was injured. My guvnor has hit the roof because it's going to push up his premiums and he's also saying I'm going to be liable to pay a £300 excess of which hell will freeze over before I pay it so all of a sudden things have become strained at my garage where I've been a driver on and off for about fifteen years.

In all honesty its been time to move on for about a year so pending the outcome of the insurance claim my time there may well be up.

Todays shift was extremely pleasant and effortless. The first hundred came in about three hours ( not a regular occurence I can assure you) then as I was heading for the South Kensington taxi rank a guy hailed me opposite Christies auction rooms. He asked how much it would be to Heathrow Terminal 5 and could I get there in 30 minutes to which I replied "yes" and it would be about £60. He produced a fat wad of cash, peeled off £70 and told me to wait there. I put the meter on and waited about five minutes before a couple got in and asked for Paddington, a £10 ride from where I was. It was tempting but my inherent honesty kicked in and I informed them that the fare had been paid all the way to Terminal 5 which surprised them. Halfway there the guy asked me how much I'd been given: "enough" was my reply. I learned a long time ago never to discuss money with people who wern't paying the fare because if the fare goes less than what the payer has given they try and get the change off you. The guy never asked anymore questions and after depositing them safely at Terminal 5 I headed back to London with a £12 tip...sweet as a nut!!

I need another couple of good days to sort out a ton of bills that are about to descend on me over the next few days.

Oh while I remember, last Saturday I spent a pleasant day out with Jane and her son Jason and his partner. It was Jasons 29th birthday and he came in to London from Chelmsford to do some sightseeing and shopping. By the time we met up with them they had already visited the London Eye and taken a boat trip from Westminster Pier to Greenwich and back.
There is an old trunk of an oak tree which has over the last hundred years had elves, animals and lots of other curiosities carved and painted into it. It's called the Elfin Oak and it is a Grade II listed structure which resides in the cafe area outside the Princess Diana Playground in Kensington Gardens. I had wanted to see it for some time and was able to convince everyone it was worth a look. No one seemed impressed when we located it but I was glad to have " pointed it" so at least if I ever get asked about it by my passengers I can give them an honest answer.
From there we went to Whiteley's where we couldn't agree on a film to watch at the Odeon. We tried the bowling alley next door but it was fully booked for the next few hours so I drove us all in the cab to Covent Garden where we spent an hour browsing all the shops. Zizzi's on the Strand was where we ended up for a nice supper and fantastic value at £25 per head for 3 courses and 2 drinks each. From there I dropped the boys back at Liverpool Street Station for their return journey to Chelmsford while me and Jane went home and went straight to bed.

I'm getting too old for all this traipsing around.

Take care.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

It's all 'appenin!

Hi Folks
Just a few more days to go for Dad's funeral. Everythings in place to give him a fitting send-off. It seems a lifetime since he died, he's sorely missed by all of us.
The following day me and Jane are flying out to Corfu for a few days to meet her kids and their partners and her little grandaughter who will have already been there a few days before us. It's 35 degrees out there today, way too hot for my liking but it beats working.
So, after a few weeks notice my garage finally raised the rental fee by £20 to the exhorbitent amount of £235 per week. As far as I know 3 drivers have returned their cabs and gone elsewhere. I am resisting at the moment as I am looking at other options. I may possibly go for a leasing option but I will be looking into it more after I get back from Corfu.
I'm presently sitting on the taxi rank outside the RAC Club in Pall Mall. Its one of several gentlemens clubs in the vicinity. The one behind me is the Reform Club which is where Jules Verne's Around the world in 80 days comes to a conclusion with Phileas Fog just making it in the nick of time.
My passenger has just instructed me to drive her to Gloucester Road northern end which will require a run through fashionable Knightsbridge.
As i drop her off a mother and son wait to get in. Kensington High Street please. Bread and butter work. I love it.
There's a buzz about London this week. A sense of everything returning to normal after six weeks of holidays. The school runs are resuming, workers are taking cabs here and there, cab ranks are moving just that little bit faster which can only be a good thing.
I stopped off for a bite to eat earlier as I felt a little weak through not having any breakfast. I went to Prêt à Manger in Marble Arch after parking round the back of the Cumberland Hotel. On returning to the cab laden with my goodies I placed the coffee on the arm rest, the sandwich on the dash and the plastic container of fruit salad on the floor. I get in, elbow the coffee off the arm rest which in turn explodes all over my stuff. Flustered, I continue to get in and somehow manage to kick out the fruit salad which also expodes open onto Bryanston Street leaving me fruitless and coffeeless and with only a cheese and pickle sarni for company! It's not the first time either. I knock the coffee off 2 or 3 times a year. I should know better.
It's all happenin today!! Just dropped an old dear off in a dead end road off Baker Street and there's a guy from the office block next door standing by her house smoking a cigarette. Apparently it's a daily occurrence and the poor old dear spends all her time sweeping up discarded butts. She screamed abuse at him to stand outside his own door, he shouted something back and I drove off leaving them to it.
2 jobs later and I have just had a minor collision with a silver mercedes van. It was probably my fault but I never told him that. There's no damage on the cab just a scuff mark on the bumper but the mercedes is now the proud posessor of a creased door panel. My guvnor's gonna love me.

I think i've had enough action for one day. I'm going home
Take Care Y'all

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life goes on!

Hi folks

Well, as promised here is my next post.

First and foremost can I just say thanks to everyone who offered condolences and kind words after the death of my dad last week. It wasn’t unexpected but sad all the same. We’ve had to delay the funeral until the 6th of September because our large family have commitments that need to be fulfilled and honoured.

As the saying goes, life must go on and I have endeavoured to continue as best as I can.

Only 3 weeks ago Jane and I were on holiday in Majorca where temperatures were sweltering in the mid 30’s. On my return I went to my taxi garage to collect my cab. They had promised me it was going to be in tip top condition when I got it back after a week at Mann & Overtons (main dealers) to have warranty work done on it. The radiator needed replacing, the ABS needed looking at as I had been getting warning lights on the dash together with a peculiar fluttering of the brake pedal and most importantly the diff had been making some really funny noises. So, as I arrived at the garage they told me the cab was still at M&O and I would have to take a spare cab out. It was an 07 plate TX4 but a pretty decent cab and with half a tank of diesel to boot. I was to keep this cab until my regular one was returned to me. 9 days later I still had the same cab as I rolled down the slope at Paddington to join the rank for my first fare of the day. “Luton Airport please driver” said my passenger. No query as to the price was asked so off I went on what was a very nice ride first thing in the morning. The journey up the M1 was uneventful. The dropping off point at Luton Airport now charges you £2 to exit which I find scandalous but I felt I couldn’t pass this on to the passenger after he had just parted with £120 (the exact meter reading). I had had a call en route to say my cab was at the garage and could I go to collect it asap as they needed the spare for someone else so I set off for the return journey, happy at the good start to the day. It wasn’t going to be good for much longer. As I approached junction 3 the engine died. I coasted to a stop getting as tight to the hard shoulder as possible. I had been low on fuel but was still above the quarter tank so it couldn’t be that. I tried to turn the engine over but it just made a click. My garage doesn’t use conventional breakdown services like the AA and the RAC. Instead they use independents who could be anywhere at any time of the day or night. First I called the owner who wasn’t happy at the news. He gave me a list of 3 breakdown services I should use. The first one was a guy I had used several months ago when my regular cab failed to re-start (dead battery) on the cab rank at the Hilton Metropole. He was going to be 3 hours in coming out to me so I told him to forget it. The next one was two hours away and the third was down in Paddington changing a flat tyre and would be with me in under an hour. The sun was beating down on me as I waited outside the cab but ironically I had just bought an ice cold bottle of water so at least I wouldn’t die of thirst. Lorries were whizzing past and the cab swayed from side to side from the wind they created, it wasn’t a safe place to be so I retreated further back into the bushes. Help arrived within the hour and after trying a few things to get the cab started he decided the engine had seized and would have to tow it back to the garage. Within 30 minutes we were pulling up at the garage where a not too pleased owner was awaiting our arrival. After unloading the cab off the breakdown truck and after me paying my weekly rent they backed my regular cab out of a lock-up. “Everything been done on it?” says I. “Nothing’s been done. They didn’t do the ABS or the radiator and they never had a diff so it’ll have to go back when they call for it”. Flabbergasted I said nothing and just drove away. Oh and while I was paying the rent the owner said that he would be increasing the rent by £20 to cover the rising cost of the insurance. It was either that or he throws the towel in altogether. He also asked if I would be interested in buying the cab off him and that he would do me a good deal but I declined his offer. I may well be looking for a new garage in the not too distant future.


The work situation during August is generally pretty dire. Ramadan has just finished and at least the Arabs are using us again which accounts for at least 50% of our takings especially if you work the Marble Arch and Edgware Road areas like I do.

My mate Chris aka @silvercabby recently informed me of a new app-based credit card payment system called cab:app. I signed up to them and have been using them to process credit card payments ever since. They pay the money into your bank account on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so you will never wait more than a few days as opposed to up to two weeks on other systems. The only downside is that you are at the mercy of the internet so if you are in an area with poor coverage it won’t work. One other thing that I found out through trial and error was that American Express cards have their security number on the front of the card. There is a number on the white strip on the back but the front number is the one required. I took a guy up to Canary Wharf and out came the Amex. I’d done loads of other transactions but not Amex so I was surprised when it came back “Declined”. I tried a few other times and even fired up Hailo to use their system but it was declined. You can imagine whilst all the attempts were being made the passenger was standing there getting more irate so I decided he was “OK” and, making a note of his details, let him walk away with my intention being to contact someone at cab:app to put it through their system. Long story short, no can do without the security number off the FRONT of the card. My £33 was fast becoming a dim and distant memory. The guy I spoke to at cab:app, Derek, was fantastic and offered to send me £20 as a goodwill gesture. I told him he didn’t have to do that and that I had to learn by my mistakes but he insisted and, true to his word, the £20 arrived the next day in an envelope. Cheers Derek!!

Jane has been house-sitting whilst her bosses go off on yet another two week holiday (how the other half live!!) My routine has suffered because of it and I find myself crawling out of bed around 10am and actually on the road by 11ish. My usual starting point at St John’s Wood Station is a waste of time whilst the summer holidays are on so I find myself turning left out of my driveway and heading for Ladbroke Grove. I have been lucky most days to trap my first job along there and I’ve found that by staying on the west side of town I can earn steadily. I sit on the ranks at South Kensington and the V&A Museum and anywhere else that isn’t full up. During the course of my shifts I am always asked for directions by pedestrians and motorists alike. I always endeavour to give them clear and accurate instructions in fact I pride myself on being as helpful as I can be. So when a guy came up to me on the South Ken rank and asked how to get to Studdridge Street SW6 I happily told him it was off Fulham Palace Road and would be about a tenner in a cab. He asked for the nearest tube and I said Fulham Broadway. He thanked me and walked in the direction of the tube station. As I thought about what I’d said I realised I didn’t mean Fulham Palace Road but Wandsworth Bridge Road instead. Annoyed at my failings I pulled off the rank and went in search of him. There were loads of people about at that time but I managed to spot him. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry and had seated himself on the edge of a flowerbox type thing near the tube entrance. I tooted the horn several times causing everyone but him to turn around and look at me. I persevered and eventually he looked over and I waved at him to come to me and explained that I had told him the wrong road and that they were several miles apart blah blah blah. He didn’t seem all that bothered and I then wondered why I had bothered myself at all but at least I could sleep soundly in my bed knowing I hadn’t misled the guy.

Whilst at work today the cab owner rang me to ask if I knew where the front of the radio was for the spare cab. I said it had been there when I broke down as I’d had the music blaring on my way south along the M1. He said it wasn’t in the cab at all and I said it had nothing to do with me. I asked about the cab and what was actually wrong with it and he told me the engine had blown and he’d just spent 3 grand on a new one and he was giving it to another driver but he wouldn’t take it without a radio in it. I re-iterated that I didn’t know where it was and he just grumbled something, reminded me that new adverts were being put on the cabs next week and then hung up. I suppose I’d be a bit peeved if I’d just laid out 3 grand for a new engine too!

Anyway, that’s all for now. Check back soon for more gripping tales of life as a London Cabby :0)

Take Care


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Arthur Silmon 1931 - 2013

It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that I return to this blog with the news that my dad, Arthur, sadly passed away on the 2nd of August aged 82. Dad had had a lot of health issues in recent years and he finally succumbed to them during his latest stay in hospital.

Let me tell you a little bit about my Dad.

He was born Arthur Ferdinand Silmon on the 13th of February 1931 in Cartagena, Spain. His mum was Spanish and his father was an English engineer working in Spain. They eventually returned to Newcastle-upon-Tyne where my dad grew up during the Second World War with his sister and two brothers. After another stint in Spain my dad again returned to England. He did his military service and eventually forged a career for himself as a translator. Being bi-lingual made learning languages easy and he was soon translating from various languages such as French, Italian, Portuguese as well as Spanish into English and in some cases vice versa.

He met my mum, his future wife, Marlene, in 1958 at a party in London and they were married a year later. Within the first year the first of seven children were born. Mum gave up her job as a nanny to raise us all and dad just got on with the job of earning enough so that we never went without. And we never did. There was always food in the cupboard, we always had nice clothes, we always went on holidays to Butlin’s or to Spain to see our many relatives, and Christmas’s were the best ever. I can truly say with Mum at home raising us and Dad as the breadwinner we had the best childhood anyone could wish for.

As we all grew up and made our way in life it was always reassuring to know that Mum and Dad were still there as a safety net in case we needed them. I forget how many times my Dad has had to bail me out of situations I’d gotten myself into through naivety and stupidity. I often tried to pay him back but after a few payments he would always say “That’s enough, you’ve paid it” with hundreds owing.

As me and my siblings own families grew Dad’s attention switched to his grandchildren, whilst still keeping an eye on his own kids. He would take our kids on holiday to Spain and trips all over England and beyond. Our kids would come back with all sorts of wonderful stories of where they’d been with “Grandad Arthur”. His love for his grandchildren was boundless. In fact his love for his enormous family was boundless. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to help out a family member in need, as many could testify.

So, that’s how Dad lived his life. A loving husband, Father and Grandfather. He enjoyed his trips to the pub. He loved a pint of bitter. He loved his food, especially seafood. He loved quiz shows, Times crosswords and anything to tax the brain. He loved classical music. He loved his garden. He was an avid gardener and loved growing and eating his own vegetables. He was an extremely intelligent man, self-taught through multitudes of books and encyclopaedias which were always at hand to answer questions raised by one of us or on TV. For his 80th birthday we bought him an iPad. This opened up a world of information for him via Wikipedia and the internet, he really loved being able to get answers to queries at the touch of a button.

Blog entries from roundabout April 2005 have documented how he was taken ill whilst on holiday in Spain which hospitalised him there for several months, much of it in intensive care. Then they told of how we got him home to England in an air ambulance which had to make an emergency landing at Stansted airport. Since the drama of that time he had returned to better health which enabled him to lead a better quality of life, not perfect, but still a decent quality of life which saw him return to work as a translator and venture out on daytrips and weekends with his children and grandchildren. His health problems persisted and he eventually had to go on dialysis three times a week which used to leave him tired and drained. Throughout all his treatments and trips to hospitals all over London he never complained but took it all in his stride, he loved life that much in spite of everything it threw at him. For the last month he was in and out of hospital with various problems and after bravely fighting off several life threatening events he finally fell asleep for the last time at 2.20pm on Friday the 2nd of August.

To say he will be missed is not enough. I still don’t think the full impact of his passing has hit me. He has always been there for me and now he’s not there anymore. The void is immeasurable. The pain is excruciating. I know with time it will get better but the mark my dad has left on me is indelible.

Goodbye Dad. I love you with all my heart and soul and if there’s an afterlife I can’t wait to see you there. Your loving son Carlos xxx
                                                                                  Me and Dad

Friday, March 08, 2013

Moaners & Drunkards

Hi folks

I think Spring has finally arrived!! The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the traffic is solid!!

I just had an old dear in the cab. I picked her up from the St Johns Wood rank and took her down to Great Peter Street in Westminster. Moan moan moan all the way. I shouldn't have gone this way I should've gone that way. I almost threw her out but I had too much on the meter.
You have to take these situations with a pinch of salt because not everyone is the ideal passenger. I tried explaining that all the routes in that direction were busy but she just talked over me. They tell you about people like that at the carriage office before they give you your badge and believe me you get them!!

Back in January I parked the cab on the rank outside Koko's in Camden and went into the Sainsbury's there to buy some food. I knew I shouldn't be on it at that time but took a chance. On exiting the shop with two bags of shopping I spotted a traffic warden by the cab so I hurried towards it. As I was getting in he uttered something about having issued the ticket to which I replied " you can stick your effing ticket" and speeding off before giving him a chance to put the ticket on my screen. I had forgotten all about it until I paid my cab rent last Friday. The owner told me I'd got a ticket and I could then see it was from the afore mentioned incident. It was at stage 3 of the process (£195) which would mean I would have to appeal on the grounds that I hadn't recieved the initial ticket. The garage was busy on Friday and advice on how to proceed was freely offered by drivers and mechanics alike. By the time I left the garage I had spoken to TFL (Transport for London) who had a report from the warden saying I had been abusive and had sworn at him and then driven off, not strictly correct but near enough. They told me I had the right to appeal and that's where I am at the moment after having put my case in writing. Watch this space!!

I picked a guy up earlier from Old St. "Do you want a really sweet ride?" he asked me in a strong and quite drunk Cockney accent. "Where to?" say I warily, imagining a trip out to the sticks. It was basically a little runaround ending up back at Old Street. As soon as we pulled off he started talking. He was a racist, he'd just lost his job, he was splitting from his wife (i'm not surprised), he almost became a London cabby, he knew all the routes to everywhere ( at this point he advised me he wouldn't have chosen the route I was in the process of driving), he loved to drink, he wanted to leave this country because it was going to the dogs (I agreed with him there) and basically he never stopped talking and we were only at the second stop on the runaround. I would describe him as Danny Dyer on speed.
He left the cab again to check in at the Mercure Hotel on Southwark Street offering me a deposit in case he never returned. He was gone 10 minutes then returned sporting a clean shirt. I thought I'd get a few questions in before he started rabbitting again. I asked him why he was staying at a hotel if he lived nearby to which he said he was persona non grata in his house on account of becoming an animal everytime he had a drink in him. He then asked me to find a shop where he could buy some cigarettes and I stopped by the Tesco on New Bridge Street ( under the red route camera!!) He returned with the cigs and a family size pack of Maltesers which he passed through the payment hole in my partition. I told him I shouldn't be eating stuff like that on account of me being Diabetic. This triggered a new topic of conversation whereby he informed he his dad was diabetic and since he found out he'd really tackled the disease head on by quitting smoking and going to the gym every day. "He ain't arf lost some weight my old man!!" he declared proudly and I humoured him some more. We were still ten minutes away from Old Street when he asked me to put some music on, preferably some Rod Stewart. I told him that my iPod had recently been stolen and I would have been able to oblige. "No problem mate have you got a connection?" He then selected the Bonnie Tyler classic "It's a heartache" sung by Rod himself and passed his iphone 5 through to me for connection. As the music blared out of the speakers he was bobbing about in the back singing along to the song "I effing love this song!!" he exclaimed. I couldn't wait to get the guy out as he was doing my head in.
We arrived at the Old St pub where the journey had started and he gave me thirty pounds for my trouble. I wished him luck in all his future endeavours and headed off at speed to collect Jane from work.

I made a Spanish omelette and grilled pork sausages for dinner tonight. I watched football with my son Michael and his mates then went up to keep Jane company. The whole time I was up there I could hear the microwave door opening and closing and the hum of it in motion. I just went down for a snack and found that all the omelette and hot dogs have been demolished by my kids leaving me nothing to snack on. Oh well! It's probably for the best.

Catch you all later.

Take Care.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Shard

Hi folks!
We have light drizzly rain in town at the moment so hopefully I'll be busy.

I'm starting a bit later this week as Jane is housesitting till next week. As I've recently re-discovered that I like Star Trek it gives me the chance to start from the very beginning. I watched the first 10 episodes of "the original series" on Sunday and a few more last night. I've still got to get through all of "The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise plus all the films so i've plenty to be getting on with.

Last week my daughter was doing a four day nail course at the Jury's Hotel on Pentonville Rd so I was dropping her off and going straight round to Kings Cross Station to pick up my first job.

I hooked up with my mate Chris aka @titaniccabby in Lincoln's Inn Fields to give him back an ipod I had been restoring for him. It needed wiping clean of all old songs, a software upgrade and a reloading of all his favourites which I've had backed up on my hard drive for several years. He was mainly keen to know if I'd added all the Alan Parsons Project albums which I had. Now if he calls me on the phone you will hear APP music in the background.

The Shard, Europe's tallest skyscraper, which also happens to be in London, opened for business recently.

There's a viewing station near the top called The View which is all the rage and at £25 a pop it's the new in-place to be seen in. So it was only a matter of time before people needed to take cabs there. Now theres always a fear of the unknown in all aspects of life which also applies to cab drivers. When somebody asks for a destination we like to draw a certain amount of comfort from the knowledge that we know the place and how to set down at the right spot. So a couple with two teenage kids hail me in Old Bond Street and inevitably ask for The Shard. Now, I've seen that building go up since the foundations were laid, from a distance. All surrounding roads have been closed for ages and I've always given the area a wide berth to avoid getting bogged down in the chaotic traffic that building has caused. So now I have to get this family there and I have to look professional about it. I have at least 25-30 minutes to resort to my various gadgets and to phone a friend and find out where the drop off is. To make matters worse the route through Trafalgar Square is in gridlock. The older female passenger pipes up at 15.50pm that they need to be there at 4pm. I answered with "not a chance in hell love" which didn't go down too well. "Why not?" she practically bit my head off. "Because you've left it too late. The whole route to the shard is going to be solid." That just shows you how an already stressfull journey can become worse. They rang someone up to let them know they would be late and I was frantically waiting for somebody to get back to me on Twitter with drop off directions. The journey took a further 25 minutes as the whole route was saturated. Twitter eventually came through for me with instructions to drop in St Thomas St which was partially open to allow traffic to reach The Shard. They got there 15 minutes late and slightly flustered. The moral of this tale is to give yourself enough time when crossing town and don't snap at your cabby when you've got it wrong.

I wasn't doing particularly well during yesterdays shift when I decided to sit on the rank of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower. After waiting 35 minutes the doorman called me over, placed a large case in the front and a large lady in the back and announced "Terminal 5 please driver". Well you could've knocked me down with a feather. I always thought that hotel was bent meaning you have to give the doorman money to get the nice jobs, something i've refused to do over the years. Well this job was mine fair and square so off we went. Traffic was bad. It seemed worse than normal. Something was afoot. I turned to Twitter, my new best friend, and it informed me that a truck had broken down on the M4 elevated section. The only alternative was the A4 but from what I could see it looked just as bad. Nothing for it but to maintain present course. Traffic crawls along. I've passed the point where I can take another route. Next she's banging on the window saying something about Terminal 5 and she's gonna be late. As the broken down truck appears everything becomes clear and so does the traffic. I sped past the truck and encountered no further obstructions on the remainder of the journey. On arrival at the airport the fare is a good £15 higher than it should be. I contemplate knocking something off but it wasn't my fault, so I don't. She hands over 2 fifty pound notes and I give her back 21 and another stressfull journey comes to an end. That concluded my shift yesterday.

It's now Wednesday morning and I have just watched 6 episodes of Original Star Trek and I'm bushed. I need to be out at work by 9am as I am getting new adverts later on and will have to pay the cab rent.

I'd just like to send my best wishes to Skippy Mom, a regular reader and commenter of this blog. She's had a tough time recently with illness and has recently had some good news so all the best to you Skippy Mom.
Well as I said I'm bushed so catch you all on the flip side.

Take Care


Friday, February 08, 2013

Coin Dispensers & Spicy Chicken Baguettes

Hi folks!
It feels like a spring day today with the sun shining away in the sky with hardly a cloud in sight. But let's not kid ourselves as its only February the 8th and still a wee bit chilly round the kneecaps.
I recently turned 51 and my dear old dad will turn 82 this coming Wednesday. It's really easy when it comes to getting him presents as we all get him a few bottles of his favourite tipple, namely, Harveys Bristol Cream sherry. Between Christmas, his birthday and Fathers Day he can amass 20 to 30 bottles which keeps him going throughout the year.
The cab rent was due these last few days so I had to make the effort to get over to Camden to pay it. Minutes from the garage and I get a call from Chris aka @titaniccabby asking if I could pay his cab rent whilst I was there. Chris lives out near Watford and being an evening driver finds it awkward coming all the way in early to pay his cab so I have paid it for him in recent weeks. Whilst I was there the owner informed me that all cab rents will be a tenner more from next week bringing my rent up to the princely sum of £215 pw. It's still pretty good value for a 2 year old TX4 and knowing the owner as I do I know he's only doing it as a last resort because of whats happened recently with the makers of London taxi's going into administration and cancelling all warranty work. Theres many a cab owner been left severely out of pocket recently. Before I went to the garage I took the cab through the hand wash at Leake St in Waterloo. £5 plus tip for an outside wash was money well spent as it is now gleaming.
I am sitting on the RAFT awaiting my next job. That stands for Rail And Freight Terminal. It used to be that years ago and the name stuck but it's now the main exit for passengers from the Gatwick Express train. One would normally expect to pick passengers just arriving from gatwick but yesterday a guy came running out asking how long it would take to get TO Gatwick and how much. I said it would take an hour and would cost the best part of a hundred quid. He had a think about it, jumped in and said "lets go". He spent the entire journey ringing everyone in his phone book and telling them that he was taking a cab all the way to Gatwick Airport and that it was costing him a £100. The journey went according to plan. The route through Brixton, Streatham and Purley Way was suprisingly freeflowing. It took the whole hour and a few extra minutes to get there and the meter clicked onto £102 as I applied the handbrake at the South Terminal. "Do you take credit cards?" asks my punter. "Cash only" says me. I do actually take cards but 1. He never asked before hand and 2. I needed cash. "well I'm going to need a cash point" says the man begining to sound stroppy. Now if you're a world traveller there must surely be certain things you plan for. Having money on you should surely be top of the list. Or at least make the driver stop at a cashpoint en route as there is definitely no hanging around allowed by police at terminal drop off points. We exchanged a few words along those lines and the upshot was that I made him leave his bags in the cab whilst he went into the Terminal in search of cash. I sat there waiting for the inevitable "move along" from the police but he was back after £3 more had accrued on the meter and paid me the £105 and said "thanks for nothing" whilst snatching his bags out of the back. What a strange and miserable fellow!!!
One of the features of the rank for Paddington Station is that you can purchase, from a guy called Mark the pad, receipts and various other items ie bulbs, fuses, window signs and something i've been in need of since my cab was broken into, a coin dispenser. At £12 it's not cheap but after struggling with a "purse type" thing Jane gave me to use I was over the moon to be able to easily view and select the coins needed to give change. I would even go as far as to say my life is now complete......for now anyway.
When it comes to stopping for food I suppose I'm spoilt for choice. I have my prefered places and in general it will be Prêt à Manger, one of 3 better class kebab shops, The Astral down at Horseferry Rd (Tony's) or the New Oak. Tony has recently taken over a cafe on Harrow Rd next to Paddington, named it the Sao Vicente Cafe and put his stamp on it.

I tried it for the first time today and found it as I expected, as good as the Astral. I had a spicy chicken baguette, a coffee and a pecan tart all for £5.60.
I've been writing this blog throughout the day and it is now twenty past seven in the evening. Jane's driving us to the cottage for the weekend and the M25 is fairly busy as you would expect on a friday night with everyone getting out of town. We have to go via Tesco at Martleshem in East Ipswich to pick up some special ecologs for the fire. Can't seem to find them anywhere else.
I've also brought my blueray player along with half a dozen films to keep me occupied while Jane goes off to a baby shower tomorrow night.
Oh well, thats all my news.
Check back soon for more updates.
Take Care.
L. C.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

HNY 2013

Hi folks
Happy New Year to you all!!
We're having a serious cold snap at the moment. We've had snow, it's melted and now it's on its way back again.
I'm due to go to Suffolk tomorrow with Jane to celebrate her grandaughters first birthday and I can see us getting stuck down there. We still rent the cottage just north of Ipswich so at least we'll be nice and cosy down there if we do get snowed in. There's a lovely wood burner in the front room which heats the place up nicely.
In the news this last week you will have heard about the helicopter that clipped a crane on a new residential skyscraper and crashed onto some poor bloke arriving for work in Wandsworth Road. Both he and the pilot died and the effects of the ensuing chaos are still being felt this week with Nine Elms Lane still closed. The skyscraper is next to the St George's Wharf apartment complex where my niece Vicky (hi Vix!) currently resides and she, along with everyone else was evacuated whilst they assessed whether the crane was going to topple over onto their building. They were eventualy allowed back in but as I mentioned the whole area is far from back to normal.
As I awoke on Sunday morning I went to the bedroom window to take a photo of Janes car and my cab covered in snow to post on Facebook. All seemed normal. About 4 hours later I left the house with Jane to grab a Roast Beef dinner at the Weatherspoons in Kenton then an overdue visit to my parents nearby. As I shut my front door I immediately noticed my nearside front window had been smashed and the door partially left open. The perpetrator/theiving bastard had had a good rummage about and taken a little pullstring bag I had in the front containing my beloved 80g ipod and my Taxi Licence amongst other sundry items. From the compartment in my arm rest they had taken my coin dispenser containing about £50 in float for work. Both the vizors were down and everything had been closely scrutinised before making off with their spoils. I suppose, given the area I live in 12 years without a break-in is good going and a timely reminder to never leave any valuables in or out of sight. Anyhoo!! The upshot was that come Monday morning I had to wait till 10am before anyone was even at the garage, then they had to ring around to find the glass. I gave them an hour to sort that out before I made my way to the garage. When I got there they were still ringing around looking for a poxy bit of glass. In the end they rang a windscreen repair company who had one window left in stock and they would come round and fit it for £70. Only problem was they couldn't come till the afternoon. The garage owner decided to give me a spare cab so I could get to work and earn his rent, which was overdue, as usual! About an hour later the phone rings and he's telling me to come back as my cab's fixed!! ffs I'm in Victoria Station waiting for a job. The passenger comes out, where does he want? London Bridge Station, even further away. Nothing for it but to do the job and run light all the way to the garage in Camden. The owner always likes you to give the cab back with the same amount of diesel he gave you it with. I couldn't be bothered and just swapped them over. He was far to busy to notice. My cab stank of garage fluids. There was lube oil all over the window sill but at least they'd vaccumed out all the glass. I put my id's in their holders and went back to work with my nice new window. Let's see how long before it happens again.
The work is slowly returning to normal after Christmas so my resolution for this year is to try and get a month ahead with everything. But maybe not the cab rent!!
"Good luck with that Carlos" I hear you all saying.
Take Care out there.
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Location:St Johns Wood