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