Wednesday 15 June 2016

Skepticab blog of randomness to 11/6/16

My musings for the week as I cart people around:

Monday the sixth

You're my best mate...

It's only just after midday and I've just taken a bloke from one pub to another.  Apparently I'm his best mate.


I witnessed a man fall over in the street.  At first I thought he had been knocked over but it turned out he had lost his footing on the kerb and had fallen in the road as a car was coming round the corner, just missing him.  He wouldn't let me call an ambulance even though he was bleeding from his head and his hand, so I just gave him a lift home.  I think he just needed to sit down and lick his wounds.  Thank goodness for leather seats so I could clean the car up quickly afterwards.


A and her family were getting away from their old home to their new one.  Apparently 'he' had hidden much of their stuff in the garden, including A's knickers in the nettles.

Tuesday the seventh


Despite explaining that I needed to go a longer way round to get to the station because of the traffic but would only charge the shorter route, a customer still complained that I had overcharged, which I hadn't (and wouldn't).  It can be frustrating that some people assume you are on the make.

Atom bomb

Mr F was serving in the Royal Navy during the war and was taken to see the damage from one of the Atom bombs.  It was interesting to hear his views on how we are making a mess of this world for our grandchildren.

GP advice

V has been told by his GP that he is worn out.  He can't stand to look at his bag of bones in the mirror.
"What chance do I have?"

Fear of fire

L suffers from depression and anxiety, in particular she has a particularly strong fear of fire so had to take her kids to her mum's house as there were thunder storms brewing.  I didn't tell her that I had seen some lightning in Harlow just a few minutes before.  At least there is some logic to being afraid of fire.  I once worked in a pub with a young lady who had a real phobia about pineapples.

Edward and Alice

Chris was going to a rehearsal for a play about Edward Elgar and his wife, which will be touring in the autumn.  He told me all about it.  If it comes to Harlow I hope to go.

Wednesday the eighth


A young lady, on seeing my Charles Darwin finger puppet on the dashboard, asked me if I was religious.  She seemed very happy when I said no, and we had a lovely chat about atheism and science.

Lost accent

I took a US couple who were just visiting her family in Harlow in the cab.  She left Harlow in 1975 and has no trace of an English accent, let alone a Harlow one.

Poor healthcare

Most people are full of praise for the NHS but occasionally things go wrong.  This lady had gone into hospital a few weeks ago with severe vomiting but despite the hospital being told by the ambulance crew and her husband, and it being on her notes, nobody had taken into account her type 1 diabetes (I am also a T1D).  She ended up going into ketoacidosis, which can be extremely serious and was unwell for much longer as a result.  She's okay now though.

Thursday the ninth


Sometimes you have really nice conversations with people, especially on longer journeys.  This couple from Massachusetts were just passing through.  Conversations on the US election (she will be probably only vote for Hilary Clinton through gritted teeth), family history, anti-semitism in their town, the MG TD brought back from England by his father after the war, etc.  They asked me to take them on the return journey to Heathrow but I was otherwise engaged, sadly.

Titania and Oberon

In response to seeing the William Shakespeare finger puppet on my dashboard, two primary school children told me about the story of Titania and Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream that they had been learning about at school.  They were very excited to get me because they had seen me passing Staple Tye when they were on their way to school that morning.


Ron, who I wrote about on 21/3/16, was telling me more about his history.  His father was a fishmonger in Kennington in 1940 but died when an incendiary bomb exploded in the factory next to the shop.  He was evacuated to Staffordshire but moved back to London, this time to Tottenham, when his mother married a butcher (so they would have been okay for meat, I guess).  One evening he was at the cinema when there was an almighty explosion.  They came out to find most of the windows for a mile around had been smashed, courtesy of a V2 rocket landing nearby.
Image result for v2
a V2

Friday the tenth


T suffered a stroke a few years ago and had to relearn how to do basic things such as talking, eating and walking.

Standing out

Y moved to Harlow from Liverpool when she was 10.  She had to wear the uniform from her old school for the first few months and with her Scouse accent she stood out like a sore thumb.  She dropped her accent quickly.  She felt it was very wrong that a child should be put through that.

Sunday 12 June 2016

Skepticab blog of randomness: Week to 28/5/16

My musings for the week as I drive around delivering people to where they want to go:

Monday the twenty-third

Turn it off?

Whilst filling up with diesel I recklessly listen to podcasts on my bluetooth earphone in contravention of the law, and have been warned in the past about using my mobile on the forecourt.  Of course there's virtually no risk from a mobile, other than people being distracted.  This article is one of many that explains this.
No mobiles!

 Tuesday the twenty-fourth

Old school flim

George (an old school Cockney) told me to take a flim for a £4.30 fare.  I had no idea what he meant- apparently this means a fiver, from the early 1900s when a fiver was made of flimsy paper.  See

Wednesday the twenty-fifth

Speaking in tongues

Had an interesting long chat with a man I brought back from Heathrow.  Prompted by the Charles Darwin finger puppet on my dashboard, he told me that he's Pentecostal, which means he believes in speaking in tongues.  He was cured of his depression at the first service he attended at his church.  I explained that although I was brought up in a religious family none of it rubbed off on me.  As ever, when at work I don't aim to challenge people when they tell me about their beliefs but just discuss them, stating my own opinion.

Thursday the twenty-sixth

Careless rip-off

A regular customer who is a carer was telling me about a care agency in the town that is paid by the council to provide four people who live in the same building each with 24 hour care.  Apparently the agency only supplies one greatly-overworked carer to cover all four and pockets the fee for providing four.


I took the escort lady to work today (see 1/5/15 blog) but found I had nothing to talk to her about.  I don't think she remembered our long talk last year.

Friday the twenty-seventh


Jack (not his real name)'s girlfriend had got into his Facebook account and had posted some pornographic images, for which she has been arrested.

Let It Go

I took some youngsters to a football match organised in memory of local deceased teenager Marcel. (link) Around the town I frequently see people wearing t-shirts in memory of the lad, and there was a recent (second) ride-out in his memory following the original one in March.  It was interesting to hear the customers wondering if people are milking it now and that they should let the family grieve properly.  There seems to be some peer pressure to attend every Marcel event in case they are thought not to be honouring him in some way.

Saturday the twenty-eighth

My religion

The closest I have to a religion is following Sheffield Wednesday.  Sometimes I feel a great deal of fervour, sometimes the spirit doesn't move me (especially when the match is poor).  Today was a big one and I felt it.  The Wednesday lost to Hull City but it was an excellent day out, only marred by the result.  Good natured fans on both sides, the way it should be.

It's now half term and I've taken the week off.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Skepticab blog of randomness: 2 weeks to 14/5/16

My musings for the fortnight as I cart people around Harlow:

Tuesday the Third

Wasted life

I discovered that another of my regular customers is a World War 2 veteran.  Mr T served in the Royal Navy and saw 8 invasions.  He was telling me about one event he witnessed off the north French coast where US and/or Canadian paratroopers were dropped into the sea and most were drowned.  He doesn't know where they were as the sailors weren't usually informed of their locations.

Wednesday the Fourth

Wasted life skill

A young lady studied Hospitality and Catering for two years at college but now she only ever cooks spaghetti bolognese from a jar.

Road rage

D... rarely drives any more because he gets angry behind the wheel.  After therapy he discovered that it's about not being able to suffer fools gladly.

5 and 20 past

Mrs H says 'five and twenty past' rather than 'twenty five past'.  I haven't heard anyone say this since my gran died in the 1990s.

Russian racism

Although M is from Latvia, he stressed that he is Russian, not Latvian.  He was telling me that Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Poles and Ukrainians really don't like Russians.  M is critical of Romanians who buy cars here, drive it home, re-plate it, tax and insure it in Romania but keep it here.  This is cheaper for them apparently.

Thursday the Fifth

Pub quizzes

Dave? does pub quizzes as a sideline.  Apparently he can earn £65-£75 per night.  Most people who run them subscribe to an online service that sends you quizzes to use, but people get wise to this and follow the quizzes round, scooping the pool on a regular basis.


I take a number of carers who look after people in need.  Today I took L, who looks after an adult with Down's syndrome who was severely neglected as her mother was ashamed of her and just left her in her bedroom all day every day.  Apparently the daughter is a very different person now.

Friday the Sixth

Hates Barbeques

Chris's brother loves holding bbq parties but doesn't actually like bbq'd food himself, so his wife cooks him something else from the kitchen instead.

Monday the Ninth


Today I had a fare, picking up at the Eye Unit at the local hospital.  As usual I sent the message to alert the customers of my arrival.  There were some people waiting there but all of them looked up at me and seemingly weren't waiting for a cab.  I got Metro to ring them to let them know I was there.  A lady's mobile rang a couple of times but she didn't answer it.  Metro sent me a different job instead.  I could have faffed about trying to sort it out but took the easy option.  I hope they got their cab in the end.  

Unclear instructions

A customer got irritated with me for not understanding her instructions.  Sorry, but I can't see which way you are pointing when you are sitting behind me!

Tuesday the Tenth

Hail spring and summer!

Jo was telling that she had heard that you can only get snow and hail in spring and summer, not in autumn and winter.  It doesn't sound plausible to me.

Bus lanes

The use of bus lanes by minicabs has now been made permanent. Yay!  This was contested by some black cab drivers apparently.  Minicab drivers and customers are happy about it.

Wednesday the Eleventh


Woman in tears, with (I guess) the boyfriend.  All I can do is offer tissues.

Belief in aliens?

A man in his twenties crossed himself as we passed a hearse.  He then asked me if I believe in God- I said no, I'm a complete atheist.  He replied "So, like me, you believe in aliens?"  I had no time to formulate a response as I dropped him off.  [For reference- I don't 'believe' in aliens but I would be amazed if the only life form was on this planet]

Friday the Thirteenth

Nobody commented on whether the day is meant to be unlucky or not.

Knob training

Teresa used to do training at Tesco.  She found humour worked best, getting them to remember worked best with phrases like "Don't push it until the knob's up!"


C... used to work for BA, including on Concorde.  The night before the last BA Concorde was returning to the UK to be taken out of storage they managed to get approval to go on board to pay their respects and stripped it of all souvenir material.


Mrs Munroe was in Tottenham during the war.  Her mum chopped up the dining table and chairs for firewood.  She would take a pram to get coal- sometimes she was able to get two lots without being recognised.

Break for a footy match

I took my boys out of school at lunchtime (with permission) to take them to the play-off semi-final in Sheffield.  Having children who are interested in football has revived my enthusiasm for my team, who I seem to have successfully infected with my Wednesday virus.  We won, yay!

Sunday 8 May 2016

Skepticab Blog of Randomness: 2 weeks to 29 April 2016

Things of interest as I drove my cab this week:

Wednesday 20/4

Sad news

I was sad to hear from Mrs Waite that Mr Waite died last month.  I liked him and enjoyed taking him.

Kick the crap out of him

R*** is a bouncer in Harlow.  He was upset at the news that a bloke had been bottled by 3 geezers.  He felt it was unfair.  Kick the crap out of him, yes, but don't bottle him.  That's not giving him a chance.

Dodgy cars?

I asked a car mechanic customer if there are any makes of car he would avoid.  Yes, Mercedes (to my surprise) because of the dodgy ECUs.

Friday 22/4

How do you forget your shoes??

'A' got in at 3.30 this morning after a night out, overslept and was late for work.  I took her last year on a cold February morning when she got in the cab to work.  We had just set off when she realised that she had forgotten her shoes, having come out in bare feet.

Nice present

'P' owns a car salesroom.  I took him to a Suzuki garage to pick up a Hayabusa (very fast motorbike) that he was buying as a present for a customer.

Monday 25/4

Disabled disruption

At a job at Aylets Field, the customer didn't appear so I rang the doorbell, noting the sign saying that the occupant was disabled.  My customer then came from around the corner as she lives at a different number but it is more convenient to be picked up from that address.  I understand why people do this but I felt guilty about disturbing the disabled owner.

James Bond baddies?

Gratnells is a company in Harlow that nobody seems to know anything about.  I have only once picked up or dropped off from the massive factory, and have never seen anyone come in or out of it.  Apparently it makes storage solutions for schools and hospitals but I suspect it is really a James Bond baddy's lair.

Friendly drunk

As I dropped off a rather inebriated woman early this afternoon I got an "I f***ing love you!!" and a very wet kiss on the ear.

Tuesday 26/4

Hail and snow in April

We had a few hail showers today plus a bit of snow.  It was lovely to see a group of schoolchildren running round with their mouths open, trying to catch the snow.

Wednesday 27/4


Junior Doctors' strike was on today and yesterday.  Unfortunately as there were no customers going to or from the hospital I didn't get the chance to give the striking doctors a toot to show my support.

Friday 29/4

Ugly people

Stephen was waiting at a cashpoint to pay me.  A woman asked him if he needed to stand so close.  He answered 'Do you have to stand so ugly!'.  He was very proud of that reply.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Skepticab Blog of Randomness to 15 April 2016

Things that arose as I drove my cab this week:

Monday 11/4

Monster Munch

Today I drove past a cat in a window with a Monster Munch bag on its head, to much hilarity in the car.  I went back to make sure the cat was okay and to get a photo- it wasn't in distress and got the bag off a couple of minutes later.

An easy mistake

Anna (a regular customer) won't thank me for this but she did confess that she found a dead cat at the weekend.  After asking her neighbours if they recognised it she took it in a blanket to the vet so that the microchip could be scanned and the owner informed.  Very commendable of her.  The vet opened the blanket and announced that the poor cat was unlikely to have been microchipped as it was actually an otter.  Ooops!  A very red-faced Anna.
Should have gone to Specsavers

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Woo?

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, podcasts and BBC iplayer programmes as I work.  Today I gave 'How to Take Charge of Your Life: the User's Guide to NLP' by Richard Bandler.  I was expecting to be irritated by it as being woo (see link for definition) but I was pleasantly surprised that it was just a book of motivational techniques that seemed to make sense.  I like the idea that we should be able to tap into whatever makes the placebo effect work, although I can see potential dangers in this.  NLP seems to be all about the power of positive thinking.  Not my cup of tea though.

Tuesday 12/4


Doris is the loveliest lady in the world.  We had a lovely chat and she bought me some shortbread from M&S, just because.  Made my day :-)

Wednesday 13/4

Harlow's horses

The subject of the many horses around Harlow often crops up.  Many local children think it's lovely to see them all on the green spaces around the town but I am concerned about how they are being kept.  They are always tethered, often without shelter, fresh water, enough food or the ability to exercise.  I have heard that they are travellers' status symbols.  If so, there seems to be little incentive for them to be looked after well.  Here's the Council's information page on them, which basically says that unless they are in dire need it is not their concern.  What to do?  It's not nice seeing so many seemingly neglected animals like this.
A horse on Katherines Way


I've been wearing shorts since Easter.  Yesterday I was told I had started 2 weeks early.  Today it was bright sunshine and 18 degrees.  I feel justified now.

BTW- these are shorts down to the knee, not the shorts as shown when we discussed the issue in episode 109 of the Skepticule podcast (see photo in shownotes).

Left v. right

A mobile hairdresser has difficulty distinguishing left from right.  I told her about the primary school trick (for right-handed people only) of using the phrase "I write with my right hand".  This was no use to her as she is naturally left-handed but was forced to use her right hand in childhood because being left-handed was not considered acceptable where she came from in Africa.  

Top Gear

Paul delivers Suzukis to and from journalists and others to review.  Today his colleague got the plum job of taking a car to/from the Top Gear Amazon Prime team in some secret location, whereas poor Paul got the somewhat less exciting job of being driven by me to pick up a car from North Weald.

Green fingers

Thanks customer Sandy for showing me how to grow a cutting of rosemary.  I really appreciate your time, and I was inspired to take some cuttings from Staple Tye.  After thinking about it I turned the cuttings into rosemary powder for culinary purposes and bought some ready-grown plants instead.

Thursday 14/4

Dodgy diet advice, spurious correlations and pirates

This is serious.  I've been eating low-carb since August 2013 and have lost 5 stone so far, although I haven't really lost any in the last year.  The main reason for the weight gain in the first place is my type 1 diabetes and my resistance to insulin.  That's just my back story.

Listening to the BBC's excellent More or Less programme on the Great Cabbage Myth, my interest was raised why so much research into what is supposedly good for you to eat is so flawed.  The programme is based on this article from the excellent  The upshot is that the whole subject of what is good for you is really flaky as it is difficult to get an accurate picture of what people actually eat, and it is also difficult to make links between different foods and lifestyle choices.  They were saying that all sorts of spurious correlations could be found with enough data, such as the statistically significant link between those who trim the fat from their steak and atheism, and an even stronger correlation between those who like cabbage and those who have innie bellybuttons.  Of course the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster's correlation between global warming and the number of pirates is altogether different.  As ever, correlation does not mean causation (somebody please tell me what this is in Latin so I can pretentiously have it tattooed on my arm) but it's important to bear in mind that correlations are sometimes spurious.
From the Church of the FSM
Just as I was listening to the podcast and thinking of the above I got an unusual job to take five pirates and wenches in full dress, complete with cutlasses and rum, at 10 o'clock in the morning to the train station.

Friday 15/4


I always think of my friends Rick and Tracey, friend-of-a-friend Fran and the other 93 innocent people who lost their lives 27 years ago today at my beloved Sheffield Wednesday's football ground.  I feel the club should take more responsibility for what happened.
Rick Jones
Tracey Cox

No particular day

Blossom update

Lots of cherry about now.

Not sure what this is- big white flowers, very dramatic.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Blog of randomness- 2 weeks to 8 April 2016

A quiet fortnight as I only worked 4 days as I was celebrating the pagan holiday of Eostre.

Thursday 31 March

Pampered cat

Pat's cat has his own double bedroom and double bed.  Her dog and cat take turns to have the downstairs in her house during the day- the dog in the morning, the cat in the afternoon (or maybe the other way round).  Otherwise they fight like, er, cat and dog apparently.

Lovely Lister

I took a lovely guide dog and his trainer from a pub just outside Harlow.  I was intrigued to learn that the trainer doesn't drink but goes to a pub once a month with the dog and has about three pints.  This, he argues, is not for the pleasure of it but is part of the dog's training, for it to become accustomed to the owner having had a bit too much alcohol.    It makes sense when you think about it.  The trainer explained to me what the dog was doing as we went along- he looked for dangerous obects within reach of the trainer, he rested when the car was moving and woke up when the car came.  I fell in love with Lister.
[Google photo similar to this one]

Friday 1 April

Flying high

I took two young gentlemen within Harlow who had clearly had a very late night, had not had much sleep but were going to work as high as kites.  Although people in this mood can be very friendly there was something that I felt was wrong, possibly a little dangerous.  I just do my best to placate them and not find out whether my sense was right or not.

No particular day

My stupid superstitions

In the last exciting episode of this blog I wrote about my lack of superstition, yet feeling the need to avoid wearing red at Sheffield Wednesday matches as it might cause the team to lose.  Obviously I don't take this last statement seriously, but is just a bit of fun (to pretend to believe it) and football tradition.  I can see that the tradition element is comparable with some religious traditions- surely nobody actually believes that the taking of some bread and wine REALLY means that it turns into human flesh and blood in your mouth?  A fairly revolting concept, by the way, but people go through the ritual anyway.  I can't resist keeping the tradition.
My car mascot with NO RED, not even underpants.

I used to have many superstitions- not walking under ladders, crossing my fingers when I passed someone on the stairs, touching my left collar when an ambulance went blaring past, and probably some others.  As with the football one I never believed that bad things would happen if I didn't follow them but it always seemed more comfortable if I did.  I think I've dropped all of these other ones now.

Who am I?

During the day customers usually call me 'driver' (or 'Mr. Driver' usually only by polite Afro-Caribbeans), 'Paul' (if they know my name) or 'mate'.  In the rare evenings I work I seem to become 'geez', short for geezer.  Is this just a Harlow thing?


A few new ones coming but not fully out yet.  This is another one I don't recognise, near Potter Street.  With Pippa's tail.

Chaz and Bill

Last time I wrote about the 2 finger puppets in my cab, William Shakespeare and (I'm sure you knew) Charles Darwin.  A Canadian medical student recently said that she was going to get a tattoo of 'I think' in Charles Darwin's handwriting on her arm, from his notebook when he came up with idea of the tree of life.  I like her idea.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Blog of randomness to Friday 25 March 2016

Saturday 19 March

Essex to S6

A trip to Sheffield with my boys for a visit to Hillsborough and my mum.  We're not superstitious in any way but obviously none of us can wear any red.  The Wednesday FC might lose if we do.  The strategy worked.

Monday 21 March

Early Harlow New Town Residents

I love hearing from early Harlow residents.  Harlow started in 1947 as a new town, taking some of the overspill from London after the war.  Ron was telling me how he moved to Harlow in 1952 from Camberwell, where his dad had been killed by a German bomb during the Blitz 1940.

Uber issue

I had an interesting discussion with a London black cab driver about Uber, which is killing his trade.  It seems to be all down to Transport for London not regulating the company in the same way as minicabs.  I don't understand why this situation has been allowed to come about, but it's worrying that it's been allowed to happen.

Public applause

A customer publically (and sarcastically) applauded me as I pulled up at the station.  He had apparently been waiting 35 minutes for his cab.  He'll be going to ABC now (I drive for Metro, ABC is our competition).  I hear this same complaint frequently from disaffected ABC customers coming to Metro- it's the way it goes.  He calmed down quickly though, asked me to take him to Canons Gate to pick up a bag of weed, then home.

Tuesday 22 March

Wheelie stupid

First thing in the morning I was confronted by a lad doing a wheelie on a push-bike towards me the wrong way down a bus lane, in what seems to be a continuation of last week's stupidities.  I chose to patiently let him pass rather than mowing him down.

Harlow at a standstill

A 2-car-and-a-lorry pile up caused chaos during the rush hour this morning.  It seems incredible how a relatively small event can cause such a big problem (as evidenced by most of the red in the photo).  A feature of planned towns, it seems.


A bad day for those in Brussels with many dead or injured.  #itssomethingtodowithIslam

The traffic warden game

Trying to pick up a customer from the town centre, I have to play the regular game of avoiding the traffic wardens whilst trying to time my arrival at the customer so I can pick up before he/she moves me on or gives a ticket.  I don't understand why it is made so difficult for minicabs in the town centre- black cabs can wait in the taxi ranks but there are few places for us.

Ticked off

I see a fence is being erected near the centre of Harlow, I suspect to try to contain an outbreak of ticks that hit the national news this week.  See this Guardian article.

Wednesday 23 March


A young man I took is cutting down a bit on cigarettes but is finding it difficult as he has smoked for so long.  He is now 15, having started smoking at 11.

Red red wine

Retired Beryl going to Sainsburys likes white wine but has never had red wine in her life and doesn't know what it tastes like.  Having heard from me about how nice it is, she's going to buy a little bottle to try.

Thursday 24 March

To be or not to be

One of my favourites passengers, a retired lady who's regular response to "How are you?" is "Well, I'm still breathing", saw the finger puppets in my car and recited a number of Shakespeare speeches to me, from Midsummer Night's Dream, Julius Caesar and The Tempest.  That made my day.  My two finger puppets on the dashboard often trigger interesting conversations.  Who's the other one? (It's not Dumbledor)

Holy Moly!

A Sainsbury's employee told me that the word Easter has been banned from Easter eggs, probably something to do with people being offended by the word Easter.  Between us we couldn't think of anyone we knew who might be offended by the word appearing on them.    Having looked it up this is the story she was referring to, from the Daily Star on Tuesday:  Chocolate makers ban ’Easter’ from eggs to stop 'offending' other religions, something that Nestle, Cadbury and Sainsbury's have all denied. This seems to be another article designed to shock people and to promote something, in this case the Meaningful Chocolate Company, which makes eggs with the word Easter on them.  Another case of us being manipulated by the media to promote a product.  A quick search on Sainsbury's website shows a large number of Easter eggs available.  Personally I don't really care whether an Easter egg has the word Easter on it or not.

No specific day

Latest blossom

This week's new blossom photo, outside a neighbour's front door.  I have no idea what it is, but it's very nice.