Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Also on the home front my son Michael and me entered an annual darts competition at our local social club. We both beat off stiff competition and met each other in the final, which my son won. Well done Mike. It was his first solo effort and it gave him a great lift after what has been a depressing few weeks of job hunting. Hopefully his high spirits will continue into the next few weeks and he manages to find himself a job.
I’m just about there with the cab rent (£800) and it should be paid by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.
It has rained continuously here for the best part of the whole of last week. Fantastic for business but you have to put up with all the moans and complaints from the passengers.
The Chelsea Flower Show has been on this last week providing endless work well into the evening. I ranked up at the Bullring entrance on Thursday and managed to snag a job out to a hotel next to Windsor Castle.
I came out to work at 7.20 pm on Saturday evening and trapped immediately on Maida Vale. It went down to Victoria Embankment. From there I headed for Victoria Station and as I arrived I could see it was moving quick. The beggar had positioned himself at the head of the rank and was trying to ponce money off all the drivers as per usual but also as per usual he got SFA from me. A young Italian couple approached me with a bit of paper. I don’t know what it is about bits of paper that gets me all excited, probably the thought that I could be doing a job to somewhere remote and expensive. This piece of paper had the name of a hotel out in Woodford Bridge, a very nice ride. I tried to explain that it was far away and told them how much it would be. They ummed and ahhhd and eventually said yes. They’d booked a cheap weekend break on the Internet and hadn’t bothered to check how far from the center of London the hotel was, a common mistake some tourists make. To add insult to injury the nearest underground station was a fair old schlep from the hotel which didn’t please them none either.
Back in town the work was relentless for a Saturday night. A couple of lookers approached me on the South Kensington rank and asked how much to take them to Inferno’s in Clapham. I quoted “the best part of twenty quid” to which they said, “Could you call it fifteen because we’re lovely?” “Lovely don’t pay the bills” I retorted and got called a miserable old sod for my trouble.
Sunday was mega. By rights it should’ve been quiet as it was a bank holiday weekend but I suppose people were taking advantage that they never had work the next day and decided to go out instead. Clubs that would normally be closed were open and doing a roaring trade.
It was raining pretty hard as I made my way around Berkeley Square. As I exited onto Bruton Street I was flagged by a soaking wet member of staff from Griegs Grill in Bruton Place. She said she’d been standing there for ages waiting for a cab for a couple of Australian customers but cabs were a scarce commodity at that time. I said she’d be well tipped for her efforts and drove her back round to the restaurant. As she got out the customers were impatiently waiting for their cab and never even thanked her, let alone tip her, for what she just had to endure to get them the cab. I almost said something to them as I drove them to the Basil Hotel but thought better of it as it was none of my business. Needless to say I got SFA tip wise either but I’d already expected that.
I dropped them off and decided it was time for my favourite Chinese in Battersea. I haven’t been there for a few weeks so my mouth was watering at the thought of it. I rang my order through and was there in ten minutes. I noticed the jovial chef wasn’t there and hoped the food would still taste the same. It never and I was hugely disappointed. What must one chef do different to change the taste so much?
Today’s shift saw me do my first six jobs from Paddington. 1st job Paddington to Eden Park Hotel £5. 2nd job Paddington to Goldhurst Terrace £17. 3rd job Paddington to Talbot Road £6.20. 4th job. Paddington to The Landmark £8. 5th job Paddington to Crawford Street £7.20 and finally a decent 6th job from Paddington to the new Hilton Hotel at South Quay in the Docklands for £32.
A while later I dropped of at the Ibis Euston when a couple of guys got in and declared that they’d just been to Wembley to watch the football. Thinking they were supporters of the winning team I congratulated them only to be asked if I was taking the piss. All those midland accents sound the same to me so I countered with “you think you’ve got problems, I support Leeds”. They had a good laugh at that and by the time I dropped them at Leicester Square to drown their sorrows we were all best mates.
The shift finished with a flurry of 4 jobs starting with a Maida Vale to Westbourne Terrace, a Bayswater to Knightsbridge, a Knightsbridge to Barons Court Station and finally as I was heading home, a snogging pair of blokes from Bromptons (gay club) to Queens Park (no joke), which happens to be, a stone’s throw from home.
All in all, a good shift. Lets hope for more of the same over the coming days.
Check back soon.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I’ve had a busy week, all things considered.
After regularly reading that Wil at Paradise Driver loves the program “Heroes” I decided to scan the net for a site that would allow me to watch them for myself. I found a great site but won’t name it as the last time I mentioned a site it got taken down. So after a couple of episodes I was hooked and finally managed to catch up with everyone else by watching episode 22 before I went to work today. Great show. I’ve also been catching up on all the other ones I watch such as Lost, Smallville and CSI so there hasn’t been much time to blog after work. Oh I also went with my daughter to watch Spiderman 3. Whilst other people I have spoken too never enjoyed it I thought it was great and the special effects excellent.
You may recall me mentioning about the immobilisers on these cabs (TXI’s only) Well I had mine disabled recently and it’s been great just being able to jump in and start the engine without all the button pressing malarkey. Whilst sat on the Holborn Viaduct Rank (a notorious immobiliser dead zone) a cabby sauntered over to me and asked if I knew about immobilisers. I pre-empted him and told him his problem before he told me it, I demonstrated how mine wouldn’t work either (the central locking still works with the same remote control but not in a dead zone) and asked if he knew the four-digit code to enter on the keypad under the visor. He had a code but it never worked. I told him that he’d have to move the cab away from the dead zone by pushing and offered to help. We pushed it off the rank and across the roundabout into Charterhouse Street. He pulled up a hundred yards away and tried the remote…..nothing. I tried…..nothing. Oh and by the way, I was breathing out of my arse at this point after that marathon cab push. We were another hundred yards from the rank in Farringdon Street so I said I’d push him there and that would be it for me, he was on his own. We had to wait a few light changes for a clear path and eventually I got him onto the rank. My ticker was going ten to the dozen and I felt odd. The cab never started and I left him to it. I never heard him say thanks but he probably did. It took me ten minutes to walk back to my cab and another THIRTY before I felt well enough to carry on working. I must get in shape.
Later that night I was driving past the coach station when a man hailed me and asked if I would take the old man standing next to him down to Lewisham. He looked like a “down and out” so I asked if he had any money on him. He said he had plenty money so I accepted. To cut a long story short he said he wanted Mayow Road. After checking on my digital a to z I discovered it was nowhere near Lewisham and a lot closer to Forest Hill. By going the Lewisham way the fare would be at least ten pounds dearer. Inevitably the old fella started piping up. I’d already made up my mind that I would knock the tenner off even though I was quite within my rights to ask for it. We arrived at his address and I told him to call it thirty instead of the forty on the meter. He pulled out a twenty and said “that’s all I’ve got”. After the event I thought I shouldn’t of, but at the time I had to unleash the pent up anger so I slagged him off something rotten. He was trying to get away from me but I followed him as he tried to get away from me and called him all the bastards and cunts under the sun. I still never got my money but I felt better. This job is unique. If you enter a shop and buy something you pay first. In this job you pay at the end so if there’s no money you’re out of pocket and left with two options. You call the police or you take it into your own hands. There is no way I would ever hit anyone let alone an old man but I’m also not going to let anyone take me for a mug so all in all I felt vindicated. If you’ve never done this type of work then don’t pipe up with venomous comments, as you’ve got no idea how it feels to work for nothing.
I drove back to Victoria and the next fare asked how much it would be to Islington and then onto Willesden Green. I started off by saying around thirty but decided it would be more. He’d already turned away from me as I said it would be nearer to forty. They got in and he directed me to Newington Green, six to seven pounds past Islington. He gets out, (meter is on £26) gives me thirty and says “Make sure she gets home safe”. I say “it’s gonna be more than this mate” He says “you said thirty” Blah blah blah. After being knocked by the old fella for twenty pounds then this twat not hearing me say forty at Victoria I blew my stack. Plenty of F’s and C’s issuing from my mouth as he tried to calm me down. The upshot was that she got out with him and I got to keep the thirty. I would rather of taken her to Willesden Green as it took me home but it was probably better that I never.
My mate Chris rang me as I slept in on Friday lunchtime to ask if I wanted to take a Spanish lady to the airport as he had other plans. He put her on the phone and I spoke in Spanish and arranged to collect her from the new Haymarket Hotel (entrance in Suffolk Place chaps). The cab was in dire need of a wash so I got up and hosed it down on my drive. He’d also said that Haymarket and the surrounding streets were in gridlock so I should get there early. I got there 20 minutes early and she emerged five minutes after the arranged time. I tried to make conversation with her and managed to prise out of her that she lived in Pollensa in Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. I mentioned that my sister lived there but found her to be, quite frankly, what I would call a miserable cow. She perked up a little as a motorized settee passed us on the M4 and asked me questions about it. It basically looked like a standard household settee with a man sitting on it but bombing along a very fast road. I was as amazed as her. I’ve seen motorized novelty vehicles such as the settee and a bed driving around town but have never seen them on the motorway. This settee must have been doing at least 60 mph and looked totally unsuitable, security-wise, to be on such a dangerous road. I would have loved to get a photo of it but it all happened so fast. We arrived at Heathrow and she promised to use me the next time she was in town but to be honest these pre-arranged pick-ups are more trouble than they’re worth so I probably won’t bother.
Tonight’s shift was extremely busy mainly due to the fact that today was FA Cup Final day. The first one at the newly re-built Wembley Stadium. Most cabbies had opted for the night off which meant loads of work for the rest of us out there. The Pride of Paddington pub close to the station was bursting at the seams as I passed it. All you could see was Chelsea fans celebrating their teams’ victory by singing and dancing on the tables. The pub usually caters for the many tourists that stay at the surrounding hotels but they were nowhere to be seen tonight as that sort of rowdy behaviour can be quite intimidating to those not used to it.
I haven’t been to the cab garage for two weeks and I’ve been driving around with a blown headlight for the past few days. The other one decided to pack up as well so I pulled into the garage at Clipstone street to buy two bulbs. £5 each!!!! Robbing bastards.
You’ll remember previous posts where I described how hard it can be to change head light bulbs on the TX’s due to the awkward design but the three years of owning my own TXII proved invaluable tonight and I had both the bulbs fitted within fifteen minutes.
One job followed another wherever I went and strangely for a Saturday night there were no losers about. Or so I thought as I made my way towards NHG, that’s Notting Hill gate to you. A Polish type guy (don’t quote me on that) flagged me at the bus stop outside McDonalds and said “Hello Mike, how much for to go to Homchurch please?” “You mean Hornchurch?” I corrected. “No Homchurch near Upminster” He did mean Hornchurch near Upminster and there were three other dodgy looking guys getting nearer to the cab by the second. My Spidey Sense was tingling and after the other night (see above) there was no way I was going to ignore my gut feeling. “I’m not going to Hornchurch” says me. “Why not” says he sounding positively menacing. The others had all gathered around him and were checking the contents of my drivers compartment for anything snatchable. “Because it’s too far and I’m almost finished” I could’ve gone on to explain that I’m not obliged to take anyone over 12 miles if I don’t want to but somehow I think that explanation would have been lost on him so I did the next best thing and said “Be lucky” and drove away leaving the four of them standing there staring dumbly. A few yards along I pulled up for a nice couple wanting to go to West Hampstead. “You’ll do for me” I thought. I was indoors within 25 minutes and not out in the wilds of Essex dead in the water.Check back soon.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Of the two jobs I did manage to do one of them took me from Paddington Station out to Bow, a nice ride at any time, which metered £32. On the way back via Whitechapel Road, always on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary to photograph, I pictured a Police car taking a piggy back ride followed by his buddy. The Gherkin is conspicuous in the background.
Whitechapel Road (WestBound)
So due to the rally/march I decided to go home and resume later on. That never happened. I went with Michael for a pub lunch in Cricklewood and then paid a much overdue visit to my parents. Two of my sisters and my brother decided to pay a visit also so together with their kids there were 11 of us visiting in all. I was still counting on going back to work later when my cabby mate rang to ask if I’d like to go up to his house with Michael to watch the Charlton V Spurs match on his 50” plasma. He has Sky HD and I couldn’t believe the picture quality. We left there around 10pm and that was the conclusion of the May Day Bank Holiday.
With practically three whole days off behind me it was important to get an early start on Tuesday. I dropped my daughter off at school and went straight in to town. After a few jobs I was gagging for a coffee so I went to the Prêt a Manger in Horseferry road. Apart from coffee and sandwiches they also do a selection of hot wraps which I have taken a shine to lately. I had the chicken and jalapeno peppers wrap together with a packet of parsnip crisps and my extra shot latte. I sat outside the new Home Office munching away and contemplating my life. No sooner had I finished than I was approached by a suit asking to go to Kings Cross Station. Once I’d dropped him off I drove around the block for a sniff on the ranks. There were a few cabs on the St Pancras rank so I opted for the Kings Cross rank instead.
It was quite a pleasant morning back at work and only one job got a bit stressfull traffic-wise. I picked a guy up in Bolton Street who asked for St Pauls. I opted to go left, through Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, The Strand and Fleet Street. Big mistake. The 10 minute journey took 40 and he was one of these passengers that never say anything but you could feel by his body language that he was thinking “why has this c*** taken me this way?” I probably would’ve been thinking the same thing. I should’ve gone right and down towards the river, Puddle Dock and Queen Victoria Street. You live and learn.
I went home after that job as I hadn’t intended to work the whole way through. After eating dinner with the kids I took a nap and grudgingly came back out at 10pm.
I made it all the way to the Hilton on Park Lane before I trapped. A suited and booted couple to Charing Cross Station. Considering it was now around 10.30pm and I was in Central London there wasn’t much work about. I drove out of the West End and ended up in South Kensington. As I came round the one-way system heading for the rank I was flagged by a couple and asked to take them to Dancer Road in Fulham. The bloke was well pissed and kept snapping at the lady who just sat in silence. When they got out I could see that she’d been quietly crying as her faced was streaked with tears and her make-up was all smudged. She stormed off towards the house as the bloke paid me muttering “Women!!” under his breath.
I drove to the Esso on Kings Road as I needed diesel and bought myself a plain chocolate KitKat. No sooner had I eaten it than I felt sick. Proper sick like I was going to vomit.
Whilst sitting at the lights at Gunter Grove I decided to go home. Just as the lights are about to change a Chinese couple come from nowhere and ask for LCA (London City Airport) It’s like 1am now and I’m feeling queasy, do I do it? At £45 I’d be a fool not to but how I never puked is a mystery. I had the “mouth filling with saliva” thing the whole way there. They never wanted the airport itself, they just used it as a marker and actually went a few minutes past it on Albert Road. On any other night that would’ve been an enjoyable ride. I drove straight home from there via the North Circular Road and luckily the sickness feeling had more or less passed by then. Thank God.
Catch you later.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Once you have fought your way out of the West End the chances are that within two jobs you’ll be headed right back into the thick of it. I always inwardly groan but never refuse. I do try and put the passenger off by saying that the traffic is the worst I’ve ever seen it but they never seem to take my advice until we’re at a standstill in the last third of Piccadilly at which point they bale out leaving you stuck and unable to earn another penny until you’re out of it.
So, given all of the above I always like to try and stay in and around the Kensington area where the fares are of a better class and the traffic a hell of a lot lighter. I’ve found a lot of the people who are on a night out in Kensington will be from west or south west London. The bulk of the hailed fares will end up in places like Clapham, Putney, Wimbledon, Battersea and occasionally way out west into the countryside.
I did a nice job from the Crabshack in Kings Road out to Twickenham and Strawberry Hill. These four young ladies were well oiled and it didn’t take long for the sexual innuendo to start flying and the giggling fits to follow. A few years ago I would have felt uncomfortable at being included in these sorts of antics but I just take it in my stride now and give a little back without going over the top. The upshot of it all was that two of the young ladies flashed their boobs at me almost causing me to have an accident.
As I drove away from the drop in Strawberry Hill I headed back towards Twickenham High Street. My light is always off as a hail there will generally take you further out into the unknown. Whilst waiting at the traffic lights another couple of young ladies asked if I would mind going to Notting Hill. Would I mind? It’s unheard of but no I wouldn’t mind and get your sweet little arses in the cab. These sort of opportunities are very few and far between but when they happen they could be describes as better than…….sex!!
Notting Hill is always buzzing, day or night so the work just flowed for most of the evening.
I went to the taxi drivers restaurant at the Royal Oak as I was short on pound coins and took the opportunity to grab a ham salad sandwich and a coffee. With the full intention of resuming work after my snack I got talking to a few people down there and eventually called it a night instead.
Saturday and Sunday just never happened for me. I couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm. Today, Monday, is the Mayday Bank Holiday and it should be pretty busy all day plus the meters are on rate three all day which is always a great help.
Here's a joke for your enjoyment. Check back soon.
Friday, May 04, 2007
I took my daughter to school on Wednesday morning and then went straight to work. After four jobs and forty quid I dropped off at Seven Sisters Road and drove straight round to M&O. The girl behind the jump had to get a second opinion on whether my garage was “OK”. That means are all the accounts up to date with no outstanding money owed. After a few minutes one of her colleagues confirmed the garage was a good’un and promptly dispatched a worker to come outside and upgrade the tariff on the meter. I think he was waiting for a tip but I’m fed up of tipping everyone so I just said thanks, got in and drove away. Next stop was M.A.M Auto Electricians in the next street. I asked them to disable the immobilizer that has been giving me problems in certain parts of London and also to re-earth the For Hire sign that has been flickering of late. They told me to come back in an hour so I bought a paper and went to a nearby greasy spoon and had a Full English Breakfast. When I returned to pick the cab up I tested everything was as it should be and then put a tenner in the tip box in the office which meant that they got M&O’s tip as well as I had the hump earlier.
I drove home, testing the meter on the way, and found it went slower not faster, probably just me being paranoid. I had a good sleep and never surfaced till 6. Michael, still keen to do the cooking, went shopping for me and cooked Penne pasta with a sun dried tomato stir in sauce and meat-wise they had turkey escalopes and/or chicken kievs. I could get used to not having to cook anymore, it’s one thing less to worry about.
I was at work by 6.30pm and my first job from Paddington took me down towards Camberwell. On the way back in to town I juiced up at the Esso in Wandsworth Road. I was queuing behind a black guy and the guy behind the counter was a white South African, pretty unusual in petrol stations as the bulk of the counter assistants tend to be Asians. Well this guy was being all polite and asking the black guy if he needed anything else and to have a nice day and all that sort of stuff and generally trying too hard when the black guy turned round, looked at me and let off one of those long teeth-kisses. I just burst out laughing which set off the black guy as well. You get so used to ignorant or uninterested petrol station assistants that anything out of the ordinary take a little getting used to. When my turn came to pay I just plonked the twenty on the counter and hurried out before the South African had a chance to try his routine on me.
A few jobs later I was driving past The Swan in Bayswater Road when three Americans flagged me down and asked to go somewhere famous. “What do you mean somewhere famous?” I asked. “Somewhere where we can tell folks back home that we’ve been to, like a famous pub or something” I hate being put on the spot but famous pubs we have plenty of. There’s always half a dozen listed in most tourist guides and these always include The Red Lion, The Grenadier, The Antelope and the Duke of Wellington. They liked the sound of the first one so that’s where I dropped them and received a five pound tip for my efforts.
Todays (Thursday) shift was also in two parts and was probably as busy as yesterday if not busier. The difference being that I came home and went for a sleep and decided to give Michael a break from cooking so we had a Chinese take away instead of a cooked meal. I then went back to bed instead of going straight back out. I finally dragged myself out at 10.20pm and headed straight for Paddington. The best job of the night was a guy who flagged me down in Eaton Gate and exclaimed “I’m fucking starving mate, where can I get KFC?” It was five to twelve and touch and go whether his craving would be satisfied but I headed for Gloucester Road and hoped for the best. As we arrived the staff were just closing up and my guy jumped out and pleaded with them to let him in. No dice. He had to settle for the Burger King next door and came back over to ask me if I wanted a burger. I did but don’t like being bought them by my passengers so declined. I once accepted an offer from a passenger and we sat in the back of the cab eating McD’s and listenening to all of his drunken ramblings, but at least the meter was running. So after my passenger came back from the burger king I drove him back to Chester Row and he gave me £20 which included a good tip.
It is now 7.50am Friday morning and I still haven’t been to bed. I have to drive my eldest son Danny down to Putney to collect his first paycheck and then over to Notting Hill Gate to cash it and then to his bank to put some money in to cover his next round of bills.
It’s just as well I don’t have to do a morning stint today so I should be home and in bed by around Midday.
Catch you all later.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
It’s another one of those words that only me and a select few of my cabby mates use as part of our own language. Only we know that “doing an Arnie” means to return back into the work zone instead of going home after having completed a job that takes you some of the way towards home. The “Arnie” bit referring to Schwarzenegger’s catchphrase “I’ll be back”. So, only we know that an “Oasis” means that after weeks and months of failed attempts at getting one’s life into some sort of order an “Oasis” has to be initiated. Oasis being a British rock band with a single called “The Masterplan”. Get it? It generally applies to me as most of my mates are “caked up” and have fairly smooth running lives. Invariably my masterplans always peter out after a week or two but it never hurts to start another one when the need arises.
So I awoke this Tuesday morning, took my daughter to school, did a few jobs and ended up in North London a few hundred yards from my garage and decided they’d waited long enough for the cab rent. The owner and the manager were both in the make-shift office and, as usual, greeted me as if nothing was wrong. Maybe they genuinely don’t mind their drivers paying them one and two months late, I don’t know, but they’d never let on they were bothered. As I handed over the wad of notes to Jim he said “Fuck me, how many weeks do you owe?” As if he didn’t know. I made an arrangement with him that if it got to the second week and he hadn’t heard from me he could ring me up and call me a few names, that should be a big help towards stop me falling behind in the future.
So with the cab rent up to date I told them of the faults that had been accumulating over the last few weeks and they got to work on the cab immediately. The overheating problem, according to them, was due to a faulty water pump which was duly replaced. For good measure they also changed the thermostat and several hoses and when I was working the cab this evening it was great to see the needle on the temperature gauge on the dashboard reading normal.
Next they finally fixed my broken speedometer. I’d had a new cable fitted a few months back but apparently it was the wrong cable and kept slipping out of the back of the clock. Now the needle moves up and down smoothly and reflects the true speeds the cab does.
As the mechanic brought the cab to the garage entrance for me to leave he yanked up the handbrake and the cable snapped. No spare cable was available in the stores so I had to wait for one to be delivered from Mann & Overton which took over an hour.
I’d arrived at the garage at 9.30am and finally left at 3pm. The early start had already ruined my day so I decided to head straight for home via the supermarket and bed.
When I got home my son wanted me to teach him how to cook a roast dinner as he has now decided he wants to become a chef. Bleary eyed and dog tired I instructed him on the basics and left him to it. After a few hours of instruction and napping in the armchair my son announced that dinner was ready and we sat down to eat a very tasty roast chicken with roast potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, Yorkshire pudding (we have them with all roast meats) and gravy. I went straight to my bed after eating all that and never surfaced till 11pm.
Feeling that it would be a waste of an evening if I did nothing, I went out to work for a few hours. I managed seven jobs in all and managed to meter just over £100, which wasn’t too bad. The best job was from Victoria Station over to Docklands for £27.80. On the way back from there I stopped at the Texaco in The Highway to put some juice in and saw a bucket and sponge next to the pump. The back of the cab was rotten so I grabbed the sponge and started washing the boot lid. There must have been too much detergent in the water as it all foamed up and the more I wiped it the more foam was created. In the end I had to drive the cab over to the tap and hose it all down. I never had a leather to dry it so now that the wind has dried it it looks ten times worse, I’ll have to do a proper job tomorrow.
I also informed my garage that I had missed the tariff increase and they informed me that I could have gotten it done at any time by simply driving round to the meter company in Brewery Road, Islington. I’ll be going there first thing in the morning.
Check back soon.