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.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Skepticab musings to 18 March 2016

Monday 14 March

Spring has sprung!!

It definitely feels like early Spring now.  I'm happy :-)
New blossom spotted this week: Magnolia and cherry?
I'm no expert so please tell me if I'm wrong.

Exposure to diseases

Today I took a young lad with scarlet fever who is off school as he is highly contagious.  Am I at risk of catching and spreading diseases, not necessarily just this one?  Should I do something to protect myself and other people?

Teenage respect and lack thereof

Last Saturday there was a turn out of around 400 people, many on bikes and motorbikes, for a local teenager (Marcel Bellairs-Honiss) who had committed suicide.   All positive, except it seems to have started a spate of people to riding stupidly as there has been a marked increase in youngsters on little motorbikes riding dangerously with no helmets in public places, people doing wheelies on the roads, motorbikes on cycle paths, etc.  It would be very sad if honouring the death of one person caused harm to another.  This was the event.

Tuesday 15 March

Drastic action

I took a customer to visit his son who is in his 40s and has just been diagnosed with mouth cancer and so is having all his teeth removed as a matter of urgency.  Sad.

Wednesday 16 March

Annoying dog owner

A woman gets into the car with a smallish dog on a lead.
"Are you happy to take a dog?"
"Yes, as long as he doesn't go on the seat."
She immediately lets the dog in and onto straight onto the seat.
I ask her twice to get the dog off the seat but she just mumbles "get off" to it.
I repeat in a more assertive voice.  Eventually she gets the dog off the seat by pulling the lead.
Me silently: Grrrrrrrr!

Thursday 17 March

Social Observation

I took a group of 6 people from the town centre to an industrial area.  It was interesting to note that the one bloke sat in the front, the 3 white women sat in the middle row and the 2 black women sat in the back.  There may have been justifiable reasons for this but it did make me wonder.  One of the middle row people announced that she is no longer on the pill.  I'm not sure if I needed to know that.

Grumpy drivers

A nice lady, let's call her Joan, gets in the back of the car if she feels she has been given a grumpy driver.  I'm happy that every time I take her she looks through the window, smiles happily and gets in the front.  This always makes me happy.

Normandy Veteran

I took my favourite Normandy veteran again today.  It's always interesting to hear his recollections, this time of serving in Egypt and Palestine at the end of the war, in particular about how they had to turn hundreds of refugees away fleeing from a war-torn land.  Nothing changes.

Friday 18 March

Something dodgy?

I'm not sure what to make of this- in the beautiful Essex countryside in the early evening I saw a white van with a bloke standing beside it looking suspicious (I can't explain why- that's just what I thought when I saw him).  With him was another bloke who seemed to be letting go of a rabbit, then a fast-looking dog.  There was a chase but I didn't see the end result.  Is this normal country behaviour?  The schoolchild I was taking seemed somewhat alarmed at witnessing it.  It felt wrong to me even though I have no problem with eating rabbit and recognise that nature is red in tooth and claw.  Am I being hypocritical?

Not Saying Which Day

Offensive tattoos and Facebook name?

The skinhead gentleman I took last week, let's call him Jack, who I wrote about last week (he really, really doesn't like 'fat birds') got into a fight in the local pub last night because of a tattoo on his face of an upside-down crucifix which someone took exception to.   He isn't religious: "It's just a tattoo".  He has many more tattoos to seek to take offence from.  He isn't as racist as he used to be but he's planning to change his name on Facebook to Adolph Hitler to see what reaction he gets.

Forbidden food

I took a person from A&E to a local house for recovering addicts.  It seemed a shame but he/she had to throw £6 of food away on the way home to dispose of evidence of visiting a shop whilst at the hospital.  Inmates get into trouble if food bought from outside is found in their possession.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Skepticab musings to 11 March 2016

Monday 7 March:
Spy corner
A gentleman I take occasionally from a town centre pub told me about an RAF officer who met with a Russian spy in the 1960s at this spot in Harlow.  I was skeptical about this but Google told me all about it.  Intrigue from the cold war period (see newspaper article)

Virtual smoking?
During the recording of episode 112 of our Skepticule podcast last week we had our Anonymous Steve on.  We talk over Skype so we don't have to be in the same place at the same time.  Paul T smokes an e-cig, which doesn't smell at all.  However Steve smokes real cigarettes (remember them?) and on one occasion blew the smoke at his video camera.  Weirdly, I felt I actually experienced a blast of cigarette smoke being blown in my face, in particular the smell.  Obviously it was all psychological but it was so clear I can still remember it now.  Explanations for this phenomenon would be appreciated.

Religious infighting
A child of a Muslim family I sometimes take to/from school was telling me that his family don't speak to his cousin's family (and vice versa) as his cousin was baptised to get into the local Roman Catholic secondary school.  This raises many issues, such as whether it is right to change your religion to get into a decent local school or whether there is something wrong with state-funded faith schools.  We don't have Labour and Conservative schools, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United schools, so why are Catholic and Anglican schools okay?  I agree with the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association on this matter.

Depressing news this weekend- a man was murdered in Harlow on Saturday and a woman tried to kill herself by jumping from a car park on Sunday.  Not good, but many customers are talking about it.

Child safety issue?
I heard today that there is a proposal to build a hotel next to Chuch Langley Primary School, where our kids used to go.  A local issue (I know) but surely it wouldn't be acceptable to do this?  I can foresee many of the objections.

To charge or not to charge?
What to do- I arrive for a job at Bush Fair Post Office, and am told after a minute or so that the customer is making her way down from the flats above.  Five minutes later I see her walking very slowly down with very apparent mobility issues.  The general rule is that we charge waiting time (30p per minute) after five minutes.  It didn't seem right to me to charge someone for their disability so I chose not to.  It took her a further five minutes to get to the car, during which I should have charged for 7 minutes.   On discussion the customer thought I should charge as I don't work for nothing.

Tuesday 8 March
I frequently see a select few minicab drivers smoking in their cars whilst waiting for jobs.  This is with no smoking signs on the windows.  I had to get a cab for my daughter on Friday.  I always ask my cab company to send a 'nice' driver (whatever that means).  Apparently the driver was very nice but the car stank of smoke, which she found very unpleasant.  It does annoy me that smokers think that because they can't smell their cigarette smoke then nobody can.

Thursday 10 March
Hannah Jane Fox
Today I took the lovely Hannah Jane Fox to the station.  Having been a lead female in West End musicals for ten years she's now experiencing the other side of auditions.  I'm looking forward to hearing how it all goes.  

Friday 11 March
Black Cabs
Today I got a nod from a black cab driver.  Yay!!

Green-eyed monster
There's an offshoot of a Canadian college in Harlow.  I can't help but be envious of the students who make the most of their opportunities to take cheap flights all over Europe while they are here.  Today I took a group who were going to Barcelona for the weekend, taking in a match at the Nou Camp. stadium.  They don't know what to expect from a football match.

A typical problem for minicab drivers- a potential customer wants a lift home but has no mobile to ring and book me.  The elderly man was clearly tired and needed to get home quickly.  What to do?  He wanted to pay but can't make the booking without going back into the pub.  If I take him I risk losing my licence but I want him to get home, which was only a few hundred yards away.  He wanted to leave some money on the seat 'by mistake'.  What would you do?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Skepticab musings to 4 March 2016

Monday 29 February:
Near miss
A beautiful sunny February morning, nearly spoiled by a driver turning right at a t-junction but forgetting to check to his left, where I was turning right across him.  Extensive use of the horn saved the day, but only just.  A bit of a scare keeps the hear pumping, I suppose.  He apologised though and all was well.  A rare example on the road of a horn being used for its intended purpose.  I try not to use my horn and consider it a good week if I haven't.

13 year-old wartime lorry driver and Normandy veteran
I take a very interesting man to the town centre every now and again.  I love hearing about his experiences during the war.  At the age of 13 in 1944/5 he was working with lorries and volunteered to drive one to Scotland, which he was allowed to do.  Another frequent customer was telling me about his experiences in the Buffs (The Royal East Kent Regiment) and later the Essex Regiment in Normandy in 1944.  He missed the D-Day landings but arrived there after the battle of Caen.

Female customer, about my age, goes to lots of concerts.  She was very jealous to hear that I once went backstage at Sheffield City Hall with Camel in about 1980 with a couple of mates and shared some Liebfraumilch with the band.  I didn't tell her that although I met them, I know nothing about the band and couldn't name one song or band member.

Eleanor from Moldova loves the UK and everyone if really nice here.  It's awkward to say that I know very little about someone's country, but I fessed up.  She was saying that her mum is a doctor of 23 years but only earns about £100, with monthly bills of about £120 before food.  Her dad's a farmer though so they get by.  She told me that the population of Moldova has dropped dramatically over the last few years as people just cannot afford to stay.

Tuesday 1 March:
Smelly Nappy
The title says it all.  Windows open!!

Wednesday 2 March:
Blood Spots on Tongue
I like that people can tell me the medical problems of themselves or their loved ones and listen to my opinions on something that I know so little about.  This customer's husband is suffering from very serious sounding problems but the doctors are struggling to find a diagnosis.  I'm not sure if a random cab driver is going to know though.  It's interesting to hear though, maybe it's just part of the consultancy service that my £1.50 per mile tariff includes for free.

Thursday 3 March:
Blooming heck mate!
Had a very pleasant ten minutes with a diamond cockney geezer about the pleasures of flowers and tree blossom at this time of year.  I wasn't expecting that.

Going The Long Way Home
I dislike it when passengers point out that I have gone the long way, especially when they are right.  I owe Mrs X 30 or 40p.  Not a lot but I really, really don't want to overcharge anybody.  I hear that others might take a different approach.

3 Months Premature 
A customer was telling me that her daughter was 3 months premature, with the lung problems that happen with such an early birth.  We were so lucky that our twins were able to have the steroids that meant they didn't have these problems.  Apparently the mother I was talking to died during both her children's births but was brought back to life both times (obviously!).  My sympathy wavered a bit when she told me she once hit a nurse who was endangering her child, but I suppose it is in our nature to protect our young.  I don't judge.

Man Up a Tree
I had to stop and take some photos of a man up a tree.

Rather him than me.

Not Saying Which Day So As Not To Identify Anyone:
What Shall We Do With The Drunken Teacher?
Twice I have taken a particular teacher, once to his school having had a very late night the night before, today it was very early evening on a school day and the aroma of alcohol was oh-so strong again.  He must have had a bad day again.