Monday, June 30

Revenue Raiser

I’m quite surprised that our local council here in Barrow haven’t cottoned on to the crafty idea that the London borough of Barnet has introduced. They have made it a bye-law that any car owner who advertises their car for sale in a public parking place is fined £100.
After all we must have hundreds of cars for sale littering certain roads in Barrow, what a money-spinner that would be at £100 a time.
I can see both sides of the argument, “for” being the fact that the vast majority of the cars offered for sale are actually owned by fly by night dodgy car dealers, and folk lose their parking spaces when these cars are dumped for days on end outside their doors. “Against” is the for sale sign in a car window any different than sign writing on a van, driving instructors car or even a taxi come to think of it?
Barnet council say the rule was introduced to keep parking space free for residents. A spokesman said: 'New parking contravention codes were introduced on April 4, 2007. 'A new code was introduced with the description of "using a vehicle in a parking place in connection with the sale or offering for sale or exposing for sale the goods when prohibited".

Sunday, June 29

Whose First?

This is just some of the taxi's waiting for a fare at Beijing Airport. Looks like a heartbreaking job to me, this is only the queue for terminal three.

One Way Near Misses

Just when I thought that folk had begrudgingly gotten used to Barrow's detested new one way system, I had two near misses in the one morning. Luckily it was nice and quiet, it being a Sunday morning but nevertheless both were enough to put the wind up me.
Both near misses happened in nearly exactly the same place, just before the Hollywood Park roundabout outside the Wheatsheaf pub.
The first was when I was met head on by an ould lass charging the wrong way up the road towards me at a fair lick of speed. I braked hard and put my hazard lights on, expecting her to stop.
But no she shook her fist at me and waved at me to get out of her way.
When I didn't move she actually drove round me and drove on frightening the life out of five or six other hapless drivers. I heard no bangs and so I can only guess that she made it safely through till the road goes two way again.
The next was an hour or so later and this time it was a huge 4x4 again heading into the oncoming traffic. He was stopped by the driver of the car in front of me, who told him the road was one way.
Amazingly I heard him reply that he" knew that the road was one way, but that he was turning off at the Wheatsheaf" and that he "didn't want to go all the way round the one way system to get to it." Both don't realise how lucky they are, this section of road being two lanes wide is now treated as a dual carriageway by a lot of drivers, with speeds of 50mph plus being the norm for some eager beavers.

Friday, June 27

Crazy Horse Chaos

A busy Friday afternoon and the usual problem of stop-n-go traffic crawling up Barrow's Abbey road with it's multitude of traffic lights. But all of a sudden things started to move a lot smoother and as I moved up the road I soon found out why. The traffic lights at what they say is one of the busiest junctions in Cumbria, “Crazy Horse Corner” had gone kaput and not one of its many lights was working. This didn't really seem to be causing too many problems; drivers just slowed right down and crawled through the junction with caution. Heck! I even saw boy racers and white van men giving way and waving other motorists through.
 This lasted for an hour or two until I was coming down Abbey Road a while later. Yep it seemed to be back to normal, big queues of standing motors with frustrated drivers crammed the road ahead as far as the eye could see. 
 But when I got closer to the junction I saw that the lights weren't back working at all. The local boys in blue must have been informed and they had arrived in force to sort the supposed problem out. Now you would have thought that a lone policeman would have taken up point duty and would be calmly directing the traffic. But no, when I got close up there was not one, not two but three of them sharing the job. All three two policemen and a policewoman danced about the road in the pouring rain, gesticulating like a trio of Italian chefs blaming each other for burning the pizza.
 This went on for most of the afternoon causing chaos on surrounding roads. As I went through the junction a few more times I could see the doubt and confusion in drivers faces as they were given conflicting confusing signals.
 Don't they teach them point duty at Police College nowadays then?

Thursday, June 26

Barrow's Bag Lady

Barrow seems to have acquired its very own local bag lady. No one seems to know too much about this particular lady, but it seems she is homeless by choice, rather than force of circumstances.
I wonder what her story is. She certainly can't be looking for solitude; she is camped outside the town hall, Barrow's most prominent building and right next to a busy main road. Barrow is better than a lot of other Northern towns in the facility's that are available for homeless folk. We have a wonderful local charity "Furness Homeless Support group" which has premises on Bath St. There they provide a drop in centre for hot meals, help, advice and emergency accommodation.
 Let’s hope she decides to accept help from them rather then spend the coming winter on the cold streets.

Tuesday, June 24

Luxury Cases

A new range of suitcases recently introduced must surely be the last word in luxury for lazy folk.
The cases are actually powered by electric motors driving the wheels, all controlled via the handle. I hope I don't come across folk with any that they want hoisting in the boot, they weigh nearly 11kg empty, so imagine the weight when full. Still at £700 each I don't expect I will see too many about. You think thats expensive eh? Don't worry they tell me that they come with a built in umbrella thrown in.

Monday, June 23

Small Change

Sunday morning lived up the usual expectations of strange folk doing what they do best; acting strangely. 
The silliest by far was when instead of any passengers getting in the cab I was handed a crate of beer and asked to take it to a local address. Fine, no problem nowt to do with me if someone was desperate for beer at 9:30 on a Sunday morning. At least I knew that the crate of beer would be quieter than a car load of drunks. But when I got to the house at the other end that's exactly what awaited me, a load of drunks. Problem was that none of them had the cash to pay the taxi fare for the eagerly awaited booze. I had just decided to head off and claim the beer in lieu of the fare when one of the party goers shouted that he had the fare. He disappeared for a few minutes and returned triumphantly holding up a jam jar full of small change. "There’s more than the fare in here, you can have the lot" he said.
 Ahh well,- I thought a load of two's and ones is better than no fare at all, and agreed. That’s when he told me the bad bit "his mom wanted the jar back," with that several hundred grubby coins were poured onto the cab seat. He hurried off to claim his share of the beer with me staring in disbelief at the mountain of copper coins. Half way back into the house he turned and shouted "oh sorry do you want to count them first” You can probably guess my reply!

Sunday, June 22

Summer Storm

This Sunday winds hit over 60mph and we had to contend with roads full of flotsam and jetsam blowing all over the place, including the odd tree, like the one in Barrow’s Hartington Street which toppled up against some poor soul’s house. Luckily not too much damage seemed to be inflicted to the house, but I bet they got a heck of a shock.
 The road was later closed and the tree carefully cut up and removed. When we do get storms like this I am always on edge when folk get in and out of the cab because of the danger of the wind catching the doors. Most folk are cautious but some just don’t care and a few seconds of carelessness can cost a few hundred pounds in repair bills for a buckled door. One fare was a woman with her two kids going to do what most folk do when it’s a wet and windy weekend- supermarket shopping. She was a bit worried about her house roof and kept saying “I hope my roof tiles are OK.” Of course I couldn’t resist eventually coming back with the old chestnut “aye someone told me you had a slate loose.”
Her kids howled with laughter but she just looked at me blankly, the joke just blew right over her head.

Saturday, June 21


Loads more shoppers that I pick up from local Furness supermarkets seem to be making a big endeavour to go green. More and more of them are ditching the humble plastic carrier bag and using eco-friendly reusable bags instead. Good for them, I’m all for saving the environment and I’ll gladly recycle anyone’s used cash for them, notes or coins all accepted.
 But I have found one major drawback with the new eco-bags, and I’m sure other drivers and shoppers themselves will have noticed it too. They are just too big and if they are packed right up, such as when the checkout operator packs for you, they are just too darned weighty. These bags may be eco-friendly but they sure aren’t taxi driver friendly. One such bag today was packed solely with bottles of wine and spirits, and I really did struggle to carry it. The helpful shopper, who was struggling with a four pack of loo roll, remarked “don’t drop that one it’s got £100 worth of booze in it.” Maybe she should remember the old proverb “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” eh! 
 I can foresee a problem arising with some taxi driver’s injuring their backs lugging these overweight gigantic bags. I’m wondering just who they will try to sue, the shopper, the shop or the bag maker.

Friday, June 20

The New King of Piel Island

This one courtesy of local history enthusiast Bernard Devlin. This was broadcast on the popular Countryfile series last month. Some superb shots of Piel and it's castle from the air, and a bit of local history thrown in for good measure.

Thursday, June 19

Big Denis

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Well it seems that”Big Denis" has got his undergarments in a twist over my comments about new taxi drivers being made to undertake some form of training. He seems to think that the present rules are enough to keep the fly-by-nights out of the trade. Let’s see what do we have? First the driving test, well that's basically a ride round the block and anyone who can't pass this simple test wouldn't have a driving licence in the first place. Then we have the medical which can be taken privately at any doctor’s surgery and is limited to a count of limbs and the ability to breathe. Then we have the criminal record check, which even if the applicant is revealed as having a record won't in most minor cases exclude them from getting a taxi licence. This he tells us comes to the staggering sum of £100. Wow, come on Denis that isn't a lot of cash nowadays is it? Drivers who are already in the trade could only benefit from a training scheme for new drivers, it's simple, less new drivers equals more trade for existing drivers. And as an added bonus Barrow folk get a better taxi service.

Wednesday, June 18

Go Invisible

It seems that for the bargain price of $24.95 I can buy the secret of invisibility. They assure me that it's not a toy or magic trick or even an illusion or ninja technique. Wow even the CIA and "foreign agencies" use it, I won't even have a shadow. What do you think, should I hurry and order it now! Mmm maybe not, if anyone else is tempted and buys it let me know if it works please. But remember folks "moral purposes only"

Monday, June 16

Movie Muppets

I picked up a chap this week that had been forced to use a taxi, because he had had his pride and joy car stolen and crashed recently. His motor, he told me had been found wrecked and would probably be a total write off.
 But even he, the unlucky victim had to laugh as he told me how the police had caught the car thieves to blame. 
 After dumping his wrecked car they had gone on to attempt to pinch another motor but were interrupted by the local cops. The boys or girls in blue happened to have the good sense to check out the mobile phones that the gang were carrying. Lo and behold the clowns had actually filmed each other breaking into and driving away several more cars. 
A whole series of Barrow's car crimes were solved at a single stroke by the video evidence kindly provided by the daft bunch of movie making muppets.

Sunday, June 15

The Streetwalker

This week I got a letter from Barrow town hall telling me that I have to renew my Criminal Records Bureau check. For this doubtful privilege I had to fill in a form and pay them the monstrous sum of £36.
 Ah well no problem I thought this should take all of ten minutes or so. But as I started to fill in the form I found myself getting more and more annoyed. OK name address etc, fair enough, but they then ask for my mothers maiden name, my bank account details and then the name and address and personal details of an independent referee of "good standing." What's that all about then? I of course totally ignored all of this.
 When I went into the town hall with my required photo ID and proof of address (they suggest a bank statement darn cheek) and the required fee I was met by what they call a "floorwalker." After I had explained my business I was given what looked like a lottery ticket and herded amongst a restless waiting crowd.
 An eerie electronic voice sounding like a bingo caller on Valium occasionally called a number and one of the herd went to meet its fate. After what seemed like hours my lucky number was called and I went to the numbered desk.
 After much tutting and head shaking I was told that someone higher up would have to check out my incomplete form. 
But first I would have to get another ticket of the street, err no sorry floorwalker and wait for the doped up bingo caller to call me again.
 Much later a suit appeared from the bowels of the town hall and agreed that I didn't have to fill in the full form after all. Great I thought this is it at last, but no it was another ticket off the streetwalker and more waiting for the demented bingo caller. Much later I reached the desk and was asked” how would you like to pay please sir.” Smiling with relief I pulled a handful of grubby notes from my pocket and dropped them on the desk. The "cashier" looked down in horror at the cash and then back at me as if I was a fool and said "we don't take cash here Sir!"

Sad Dad's

I had forgotten it was Fathers day on Sunday until I got my first job going to the very busy cemetery. After that for the whole day I had not a single job taking folks out for a Father’s day meal or anyone delivering cards or presents to their poor neglected ould dads. 
This is in complete contrast to Mother’s day which is one of our busiest days of the year. I had another three jobs going to and from the cemetery during the day, a bit sad don't you think? Maybe some folk just don't appreciate their poor old dad until he's dead and gone.

Saturday, June 14

Carnival Chaos

Dalton was a no go area for us Taxi's for most of Saturday. The annual carnival brought its usual road closures, but more roads seemed to be closed and for longer. We just had to leave some folk who were ringing up to be picked up by taxi marooned in Dalton. Just why all the roads have to be closed a full hour before the start of the parade is anyone’s guess, what's wrong with closing the roads as the parade reaches them? Hundreds of drivers were stuck in queues on Abbey Rd waiting for cars in front to make a pointless three point turn, all because of unclear and badly placed road signs. Some folk were asking the PCSO s the way in and were being given duff information, simply because the PCSOs didn't know themselves. Maybe they could have a whip round for some proper signs and some printed instructions for the PCSOs next year.

Friday, June 13


Well it seems that the folk up in Barrow's wild western Ormgill estate have figured a way of beating the fuel strike. Seems like a good idea eh! environmentally green, friendly,quiet, and produces a by-product that's useful in the garden. The way things are going I may get one myself. Photo by Andrew Carling.

Thursday, June 12

Custom Roller.

Myself I think this is sacrilege, a Rolls Royce should be left as it should be, not turned into some sort of fake Batmobile.

Crash Tests

How safe is your car? find out how your vehicle performed in crash tests here. Safety ratings are also given for any unlucky pedestrians you may hit, and also results for child passengers . Sorry Europe only!

Fuel Surcharge

I read that taxi fares in Sheffield are to have a 50p surcharge added on for each journey. Local taxi drivers here in Barrow are suffering with the scandalous fuel price rises, so maybe this could be an option here. "It means that there doesn't need to be any change to the meter- which would have to be paid for by the drivers- and if fuel drops in price - which it probably won't - then it can be reversed quite easily. I can see this being the only way forward if the government don't see sense and arrange a fuel tax rebate for taxi's, similar to the 25% which our rivals the bus company's benefit from.

Wednesday, June 11

Reply to the Mail

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The scurrilous attack on the good name of Barrow taxi drivers by local Mail scribbler Corny can't be allowed to go unchallenged. Far from waiting half an hour for a cab nowadays most computer systems dispatch a car immediately, and I myself have arrived to pick up surprised fares whilst they were still talking to the operator on their mobile phone. Yes drivers are unhappy about rising fuel prices, but who can blame them, contrary to what some may think fuel costs come directly out of the drivers pocket.
 Corny goes on to complain about a chum being “driven round the houses" and then being overcharged.
 This annoys the vast majority of honest cabbies and is usually caused by new drivers not knowing what they are doing. In these days of needing a training certificate to dig a hole in the road, or a licence to be a bouncer maybe it's about time the taxi trade in Barrow was brought up to date. It's one of the only trades left which anyone off the street with a driving licence can take up. Far too many fly by nights, and folk who are just in between jobs are ruining the trade’s reputation. Barrow folk deserve better, new and novice drivers should be given a comprehensive training course. This course is already available and has been introduced by Preston council since 2006. The BTEC course is valuable training, so they can develop important skills in areas such as customer safety, route planning and disability awareness. Maybe then with only drivers who are truly committed and trained coming into the trade, things would vastly improve for fares and drivers alike.

Tuesday, June 10

Toothless Tub

Well the destroyer which visited Barrow over the weekend for the festival of the sea has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. HMS Exeter in an attempt to save cash has been stripped of it's main armament, the Sea Dart ship to air missiles. The missiles, which have a range of 40 miles, have been used to protect HMS Exeter against air attack. Without the missiles, it is believed the ship is defenceless against enemy planes. The toothless tub also hit the headlines recently when protests were heard about the use of the ship and RN helicopters being used to launch the new James Bond novel"Devil May Care" written by Sebastian Faulks.

Sunday, June 8

Barrow's Closed

Well this years Barrow’s Maritime Festival certainly made it a very busy weekend. Lots of sailors were out and about looking for a good time, and looking at the state of some that I picked up early on Sunday morning they certainly seemed to find one. One jolly tar had his weekends shannanagins interrupted by the arrival of his girlfriend who had travelled up to surprise him with a romantic nights stay together in a local hotel. Very romantic, but looking at his face when I drove them to the hotel I got the impression that maybe he had been looking forward to a wild night out on the town with the lads.
We seemed to have hundreds of visitors from out of town which was great for the town. On the Sunday lots of folk took a stroll in the sunshine round Barrow town centre whist they were here. I watched hordes of them wonder up and down Dalton Rd, just itching to lighten their bulging purses and wallets. But hardly a shop or cafe was open for them, WHY? The town centre businesses complain loudly about lack of trade, and yet when they are given a golden opportunity to make big bucks they take the day off. Come on guys get your act together for next time please!

Saturday, June 7

Fish's Revenge

A quick trip up to Furness General's A&E department was on the cards today for one unlucky fare. It seems that he had been out fishing very early in the morning and had arrived home fed-up and fish less. He went to throw his fishing tackle in his shed in disgust, but unluckily for him he finally accidentally caught his first catch of the day. It was a big un and put up quite a struggle, but it was finally hooked good and proper. Unfortunately it was himself that was hooked right through the top lip; yes that's right just how he would have hooked a fish. A classic case of fish’s revenge I guess, so it was up to hospital for a stitch or two and tetanus jab maybe. I advised him to stick to fishing for frozen fish fingers in the freezer section of his local supermarket, it’s much safer.

Thursday, June 5

Which Way Teddy

Are you having this or not? engineers at iXs Research Corporation say they have developed a robotic teddy bear designed to work as a talking car navigation system. The prototype robot stands 1 ft) tall and has 6 joints in its arms and neck, which it uses to make gestures while providing spoken directions.

The robot bear is also equipped with functions to improve auto safety, such as an alcohol detection sensor embedded in its neck. If it smells booze, the robot confronts the driver, saying, “You haven’t been drinking, have you?” Other sensors detect reckless driving, so if the driver suddenly accelerates or slams on the brakes, the robot says, “Watch out!”
As a bonus feature, the robot bear provides information about nearby landmarks when you stroke its head.
The company hopes to make the robot commercially available next year. “We want to make it more compact,” says CEO Fuminori Yamasaki, “and we’d like to offer a variety of shapes, including other characters and a plain mechanical version.”
Fujitsu has patented the idea of merging car navigation systems with dolls, but it has granted iXs Research Corporation permission to use the patent through a Kawasaki-area project encouraging major corporations to share intellectual property rights with small-to-medium-sized companies.
Whatever next eh? so you could have a child s toy telling you what to do in the near future, sounds about right doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 3

Cool Bus Stops

Why cant we have cool Bus Stops like these instead of the drafty urinals that we have now.

Monday, June 2


I picked up a chap today who tells me he works as an ambulance driver/paramedic in the north of Cumbria.
 What should have been a short ten minute journey turned into an enjoyable half hour chat about our respective jobs and experiences. Most of the stuff, I can’t repeat here in case some hapless patient recognize themselves and tries to sue me. But talking about being sued, he tells me that a heck of his and other paramedics time is wasted dealing with obviously uninjured folk who are out to make an insurance claim. Folk who are involved in silly little minor slow speed bumps in their car are immediately on the phone for an ambulance to come and needlessly take them to hospital. Paramedics refer to the so called injuries as whipcash or Florida neck, this is so called because the average payout for whiplash is just enough for a family holiday in Disneyland.
 I had to agree with him about the way we have become a nation of insurance scammers because I have come across it myself many times. Being out and about on the roads all the time I come across a lot of minor bumps and scrapes and am constantly amazed by the fuss some folk make to make sure of getting their insurance pay-out. The last minor bump I had about five years ago caused no marks on my car and only a cracked number plate on the other car I nudged. I was totally gobsmacked to be told by my insurance company twelve months later that they had paid out a total of £11.000 for so called injury's to the driver and passenger of the other car. No wonder insurance is so darned dear nowadays eh!

Sunday, June 1

Salthouse Mills Fire

Barrow residents in the Roose & Salthouse area were treated to another huge dose of toxic smoke and lung fulls of carcinogenic chemicals again on Sunday night. Every week we seem to be subjected to a blaze of one sort or another from this dangerous hell hole called Salthouse Mills. Sunday's huge blaze started at about 9pm and lit up the dusk sky with noxious smoke raising hundreds of feet in to the air and spreading towards the town centre. Lives were put at risk, by what sounded suspiciously like gas cylinders and petrol tanks exploding every few minutes. This place is a risk to our health, our children's especially, and as I have been saying for years needs to be demolished now.

Grammar'"":;' Test.

I read in the national press that Barmy Bournemouth council has banned a driver from working as a cabbie - because he can't use apostrophes. Heck I’ve never even tasted one never mind used one, what’s that all about then eh?
Would be cabbie Laurence Kirk was denied a private hire driver licence after failing an English exam designed to test his grammar.
Although he has worked as a taxi driver before and knows the streets of his home town like the back of his hand, he was turned down because of his lack of grammatical knowledge.
Laurence, 50, says he is a victim of a new "barmy" test that Bournemouth Borough Council in Dorset has introduced.
All applicants have to pass a BTEC qualification in taxi driving and the council has designed its own English test to check if they are suitable.
Mr Kirk said the idea was potty because it did not test his driving skills and instead, questions included picking up grammatical errors in a written text.
'I used to be a taxi driver and I was a good and successful one', Mr Kirk said.
'But now the council are telling me I can't work as a taxi driver because I don't know how to use an apostrophe or where to put a semi-colon.
'No one has asked me if I know Bournemouth or what I would do if approached by a drunk person, just where to put an apostrophe.
The exam is designed to catch out foreign drivers who do not speak English. But obviously the loony council didn’t think that it would be a more sensible to have an oral English test. The horrible truth is that a lot of folk like me, for whom school is just a distant memory, do forget some of the more complex grammar. But by the same token a lot of the younger generation only seem to able to write in text speak, “if uno wot I mn m8.”