Thursday, 28 August 2008

I love Bank Holidays

Why do a I love Bank Holidays? Quite simple really, switch the meter on and there's a lovely big red "3" glowing away on the left hand side. Saves having to stay out past 10pm at night.

Having got up to the garage to pick up the cab and having spent £20 on getting the train to London Bridge and then a cab to Three Colts Lane, I loaded up with fuel and started work. I wonder how it is that the bloke who has the cab before you always manages to work it so that the fuel light is shining away when he leaves it, yet I always leave a load in the tank.

Anyway, having been in for its 6 monthly inspection I was hoping that the cab would be in good nick. Turning away from the garage there was a clunking from the steering. At the first set of lights I put my foot on the brake and the cab came to a halt with an almighty juddering come from the front wheels.

Knowing how much of a fight it is to get the mechanics to even acknowledge the fact that you aren't actually invisible I decided to bear with it for the weekend and give the cab back with a note when I returned it on Tuesday. Hopefully everything will be done when I pick the cab up again on Friday week. That's right, more time off for me this weekend to go to Clapham in Bedfordshire to sit and listen to music and drink beer at the Rhythm Festival. With my brother doing the driving and me not having to work until the following weekend, I should have plenty of time to sober up.

One more thing about the cab on its pick up was that having gone away with adverts on the side I returned to pick it up with new ads for the company my wife works for. I have to say that their adverts are fairly effective since lots of people read the "capital knowledge" details on the side such as "You may face imprisonment if found drunk in charge of a steam engine or cow" and "It is illegal to get into a taxi if you are suffering from the plague".

Anyway, on to the weekend's work, and it was great to meet up for a cuppa with Steve, one of my mates from the knowledge who had finally got his badge after 4 years of trying. Well done mate. Congratulations also to Foz and Polish Chris who also got their badges and did their first work as London Green badge cab drivers in the past couple of weeks.

Right, really, it'll be about work now, honest, and not about my weekend off, music, or stopping for a cuppa. Things were fairly steady all weekend, what with the Olympic handover party going on in The Mall, and the Notting Hill carnival going on over at Ladbroke Grove. Luckily I wasn't forced over towards the carnival at all except for one lady who wanted to go from Edgware Road to Notting Hill Gate. I told her I'd get her as close as I could and headed along the Bayswater Road, where we abruptly came to a halt well short of Queensway. Nothing moving and four police vans blocking the road dealing with some sort of incident. With £10 on the clock she decided to bail and accept my apologies.

The weekend passed off fairly peacefully for me, with lots of people chatting about the Olympics, especially one family from Bahrain who were rightly proud of their country's medals. Sadly I picked up no Australians so couldn't join in with our new national sport of gloating.

Some of the better jobs were one French family going from the Victoria and Albert Museum, to their hotel, The KK George in Templeton Place, and then from there on to St Pancras. (One for all those knowledge boys and girls who question why we need to learn the turnarounds for places like that, although in the real world U-turns and the reverse gear help a lot).

From St Pancras I picked up a young lady who had travelled down from Leeds, wanting to go to Seven Sisters so that she could take part in the Miss Zambia UK competition. She was struggling to walk to the cab in front thanks to the high heels she had already put on, and as she reached out a young man reached the door before her. I fully expected him to hold the door open for her but no, he jumped in and left her standing on the rank. What a gent! I can only think he must have been in a hurry to get away from the station since there was definitely no shortage of cabs on the rank.

Another man and his young sons were picked up at the Holiday Inn Forum in Kensington wanting to do the Short trip to the Big Easy restaurant on the Kings Road. all were in a good mood, and they explained that they had spent the day doing the tour of Buckingham Palace. However, the staff weren't too happy since one of the boys wasn't feeling too well and actually threw up on the carpet in the banqueting hall. How about that for a story to tell your grandchildren later in life.

Having poodled around the hotel ranks for a while (and getting annoyed at the driver who picked up 20 feet behind me outside the Mandarin at Knightsbridge while I was on point at the rank - "Sorry mate I didn't see ya". Perhaps you shouldn't be driving without a bloke waving a red flag in front of you then.) I turned from St James Street towards the Ritz hotel in the hope that the rank might be moving. Nobody there, so I put on, switched the engine off and settled in for a wait. Before I could even find the page of the book I'm reading (Jupiter's Travels by Ted Simon) the doorman opened the rear doors and told me through the window "Whichever Heathrow Terminal does Aeroflot please". Lovely way to work towards the end of a day. Two passengers who don't speak English, a run straight up the A4 and £50 on the meter on arrival.

The bank Holiday Monday was fairly quiet, so thank goodness for the Rate 3. Lots of Station to Station stuff and not much traffic, but it would have been painful at one of the lower rates.

Tuesday was fairly slow and I was happy to drop the cab back at the garage at around 7pm. Not so happy that I had to walk as far as the East London Mosque before I found a cab that would take me to London Bridge Station for the journey home. Still, at least I'll save myself a few hundred quid in rent these next couple of weeks.

And so on to my weekend away at the Twinwood Arena. Can't wait!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Has it been that long?

Sorry everyone, once again all my good intent to regularly post on here has gone on holiday.

Talking of which, rather than take up space on here about the bike holiday planned for October one of my fellow travellers has set up a new blog which we hope to update now and then, and also from the trip itself if technology allows. The link is over there on the right.

Have had a quiet couple of weeks myself having been away for a week up to Mabelthorpe on the East Coast. A chance to mellow out, have a drink every now and then and not have to worry about driving anywhere the next day. With the school holidays still in full swing I've not had the cab for a couple of weeks, saving myself some money, but looking forward to picking it up again for the Bank Holiday weekend. Just got to hope nobody wants to go anywhere near the Notting Hill Carnival area or The Mall since both will be closed.

Once that is all over I'll drop the cab off again at the garage since I'll be away at Rhythm Festival for the last weekend of August. Three days of camping, beer and music. Can't wait. Should be fun, especially since my 12 year old daughter is coming with us, and there's not a modern "pop" band in sight. Hopefully she'll be educated so that she knows what REAL R'n'B is about, and not what is now being given the label that has previously graced such stars as Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley.

Since it's been a month since my last post I won't give details of every job, more just the highlights (and a couple of lowlights) that have graced my own little part of the taxi trade.

I'll deal with the lows first so that I don't leave all those knowledge boys saying I'm one of the miserable old sods who tell everyone the game's dead. I'm only telling it how it really is out there sometimes. You've got to take the rough with the smooth. The first couple of weeks of the school holidays were slow. I mean REALLY slow. It wasn't just me, quite a few other drivers I spoke to said the same. However, some must have got lucky since they were saying it was OK. (Rough with the smooth, remember).

My regular cab also had to go in for its 6 month inspection so I had to spend the week before my holiday in a replacement. What a pile of crap. No air-con, bits falling off it and a radio that needs a degree in computer science to work out how to use it. Luckily, the taped on wing mirror passed an inspection by the PCO's licensing team when I stopped for a cuppa at the Astral cafe.

I was glad to give the bloody thing back, although had a run-in with the garage. They are open on a Saturday morning, so having worked until 2am from Friday night, I headed in to hand it over by 12. Unfortunately a van had broken its rear axle in the Blackwall Tunnel causing me to have to go all the way up to Tower Bridge to avoid too much traffic before I could get to the garage. I managed to get there by 12:30, but they had phoned me to say they shut at 12 (they don't, I've paid my rent at well gone 12 on other Saturdays) and that I had cost them money because they couldn't get it out to another driver. "So charge me for the extra day then" I said with less patience than Naomi Campbell waiting for her baggage at terminal 5. "I'm stuck in Lewisham trying to get round a problem that's holding up South East London, and unless there's a "Fly" mode on this thing, I can't get to you by 12." Them telling me I should have left earlier didn't help matters.

It only got worse when a couple of other cabbies refused to take me to Charlton on the way home because they didn't want to get stuck on the way back. (Should I grass them up to the PCO or not? Nah, probably not, but I was in the right mood to do it by the time I'd got to the pub.)

One thing I did notice during the last month is that there are lot of people coming into town and only taking short trips. I've even suggested to a few people that it would be quicker for them to walk than to sit in traffic. Some are happy to take the advice and directions, others say, no we'll still take the cab anyway. No problem. The best of these was two lads on Oxford Street. While sitting at a set of lights behind another cab, I saw two men go to the first cab, have a conversation with the driver and then come back to me. They wanted to go to a club called "Blush". I couldn't remember straight off where it was, but since i was talking to my old callover Partner Brian, he reminded me it was in Duke Street.

I told the two that all they needed to do was walk up Oxford Street, turn left and the club was a little way up, and that it would take them less than 5 minutes to walk it. "OK, thanks!" they said, and then got into the back. "Fair enough" thinks I. The traffic lights go green, we roll forward about twenty yards to the lights at the junction of Duke Street, and I suggest to the passengers that I can either take them all the way round the block, or they could get out and walk to the club from there, saving themselves both time and money.

They ask where the club is, and I point it out to them. Embarrassed, they get out. The meter is still only at £2.20, not even having travelled far enough for it to change from the "flag fall". The passenger offered to pay, but I laugh and tell him I was going in that direction anyway.

Have had a few nice jobs in amongst the little runs, one to Kingston Hospital from The Oval after the cricket. I asked if he worked there or was a student in residence. He told me that he didn't, but that his wife had had a baby the day before but he didn't want to give up his ticket for the match. Balls of steel or what?

Another was a job up to Friern Barnet from Great Portland Street. Having previously taken a job to Villandry in the same street this just shows what you can get if you take something that might only come to £3.

Looking forward to working again after a couple of weeks off. Just wondering whether the garage will have the cab ready for me by 12 though.