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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