Monday, March 31

Box Camera

North Wales Police's newest crackdown on speeding drivers sees officers hiding in the back of a horsebox while parked up on a grass verge. The force is headed by Richard Brunstrom who was dubbed the "Mad Mullah" after a series of tough new measures to catch speeding drivers. Mr Brunstrom has previously raised the prospect of speed cameras being hidden in cats' eyes. But despite his force's crackdown on motorists, road deaths and serious injuries are up by a third. Last year he faced calls to quit after he showed pictures of a headless biker to journalists at a road safety seminar without telling the motorcyclist's family. His 'Arrive Alive' speed cameras caught 55,000 offenders in 2007 including 19 police vehicles not answering 999 calls. Yesterday the horsebox was parked alongside the road at Maenan, near Llanrwst - a straight stretch with a 60mph limit but renowned for speeding.

Sunday, March 30

Cat Nick

I had an interesting talk with a visiting off duty policeman from a force down South, who was visiting Barrow for the first time. He was impressed with the area and said he would like to visit again some time, and then the talk turned to the subject of crime. He like me thought that Barrow's isolation was an advantage in some ways and that a bridge over the bay would bring the problem of big city crime a step closer. The patch he works is fairly rural, but is within twenty minutes of a nearby city. He told me of some of the problems that this brings including burglaries, drugs, and car crime.
 He was surprised when I told him that the latest crime plaguing his area hadn't yet been heard of in this area.
 He tells me that gangs of thieves are targeting a thing called a catalytic converter which is part of the silencer on most modern cars. It seems that they go for larger motors, 4x4s and vans because the converter is easier to get at and being bigger contains more of the precious metals which they then sell on for scrap value, which nowadays is at least £50 for each cat. In some instances he says the converters are being cut from owners' vehicles in their own driveways. This leaves the vehicle owner with a steep repair bill and replacement costs of £300 to over £1000 for some vehicles. So there you go folks, keep a good eye on that cat eh!

Saturday, March 29

Seatbelt Clamp-Down

At least two surprised local Barrow taxi passengers have been left out of pocket this week. It seems that local cops have started paying particular attention to our passengers.
 Instant penalty tickets for a £30 fine have been issued for failing to wear a seat belt. After I heard about the clamp-down I started to remind my fares about their seatbelt, and was surprised by some of the replies. A lot said "aye Ok I don't want to get you fined" and some said "no I don't need to wear the seatbelt in a taxi." So lets make it clear for them, if an adult, the passenger, not the driver is responsible for wearing their own seatbelts and for paying any fine for not doing so. Some folk may be confused by the law relating to seatbelts whilst riding in a taxi by hearing rumours of certain exemptions. The law is that Hackney Carriage taxi drivers are exempt from wearing seat belts while on duty (whether they have a passenger or not). Private Hire taxi drivers are only exempt when carrying a fare paying passenger. They must wear a seat belt at all other times. The only other exception is that a child under 3 years may travel unrestrained in the rear of a taxi if the correct restraint is not available. And just to let you know, I unusually for a cabbie always wear my seatbelt on every trip.

Thursday, March 27

Red Light District

How do you solve the problem of an alley so narrow that only one person can fit through? Simple. You put in a traffic light. This pedestrian controlled traffic light is in the city of Prague the Czech Republic. And yes you will get a ticket for running the red light.

Dancing Drunk

Is this one for real, what do you think? I have my suspicions.

Wednesday, March 26

Kate Moss Gets a Taxi!

Supermodel Kate Moss has just taken delivery of her latest must-have accessory - a brand new taxi - and she's now planning to use her extensive fashion Knowledge to customise it. The model, who was given the £40,000 taxi by her best friends, wants to turn it into a handsome cab. Maybe she wil lgo for classy leopard skin side panels, shocking pink hub caps, an initialised grill, furry dice and some whacking great speakers? "Kate had been hankering after a taxi for ages but really wasn't expecting to be given one. "It was a supreme effort by close pals Sadie Frost , Fran and Charlotte Cutler and Jess Morris - Rhys Ifans' ex - to pay Kate back for all the freebies she has given them over the years. They each contributed a quarter of the cost. It was a belated birthday present. "Both Kate and boyfriend Jamie Hince love the car and they have already lined up a few finishing touches - one of which is going to be utterly outrageous. Kate can't wait. "He's already arranged for the steering wheel to be personalised with her initials, and is getting the cab fitted with an iPod and six speakers, plus a hands-free mobile kit. Kate has raised the possibility of leopard skin backseats and furry dice. No one's sure if she's joking or not." Generous Kate has secretly decided to pay the girls back... by giving them each an original Banksy. The mum-of-one has a substantial collection of the graffiti artist's work. She plans to present the gifts when they have the next girls' weekend at her country home.

Monday, March 24

Roiding Chavs?

Monday morning was the time for the party people who had been overindulging on Super Sunday to pay the price.
Lot's of folks nursing hangovers and telling tales of woe among the fares I picked up during the day. 
Two of my fares told me very different versions of the night they had spent at Barrow's Scorpio nightclub. First guy told me that he hated it and that the place was full of "roiding chavs" (otherwise known as a chavalanche), whatever that means! Second guy who I picked up later tells me " yeah Sessions was on, bangin tunes innit drive, gorrit on me Nokia innit mate" and then pulls his mobile phone out and plays some noise and points to the screen which showed some flashing lights. I was still no wiser, and decided that maybe in this case that ignorance is bliss after all.
Check the video below out if you dare, I can't make head nor tail of it myself.

Easter Madness

Two major soccer matches, one with an early afternoon kick-off combined with the first super Sunday of the year guaranteed an explosive night. Boozed up gangs of opposing football fans roamed the town centre streets in search of trouble, and a lot of them found it in the full to bursting town centre pubs and clubs. Police were called to many of the towns bars to deal with fighting and disorder and lots of arrests were made throughout the night. Driving past one group of yobs who were amusing themselves by using some poor devils car as a bouncy castle, I was threatened with a kicking for daring to look in their direction. Most sensible drinkers seemed to head for the quieter bars away from the town centre mayhem, and I for one don't blame them. I gave up and finished earlier than planned after being driven to distraction by a drunken football fan. As soon as he got in the cab at Barrow's Strawberry Hotel his head fell onto his chest and he began to snore. After two or three very loud snores, he suddenly sat bolt upright and began singing football chants at the top of his very out of tune voice. A couple of meaningless verses and then his head droops again and two more very loud snores, and then wide awake and more tuneless caterwauling. This was to be repeated over and over again for the long five mile journey all the way to Walney's North Scale. Let’s hope he is a bachelor if not heaven help his poor long suffering wife.

Saturday, March 22

Crash Corner

After spending £625.000 on "improvements” to one of Barrow's major road junctions at Abbey Road and Holker Street, I wonder if our rogue road engineers have produced a new crash corner. Looking round at the twisted metal railings and bent pedestrian crossing posts it looks like it's become a dangerous place for both drivers and pedestrians alike.
 In the latest incident a local Police van, said to be" attending an incident" was in a high speed collision with a taxi. If our supposedly highly trained guardians of law and order can't negotiate this junction safely what chances have the rest of us got?
 They tell me that a £50.000 statue of sadly departed local soccer legend Emyln Hughes is soon to be erected at the junction. How long will that last before being demolished by yet another out of control vehicle. Studies should be made into the safety of this busy junction and any improvements needed made before we have a fatality there.
Hat tip to Bill for the photo.

Thursday, March 20

New, New York Taxi

Meet Fords proposed new replacement for the soon to be withdrawn Crown Victoria. This is the Turkish built Transit Connect. The automaker said the comfortable, spacious and fuel-efficient Transit Connect was ideal for carrying people and cargo through congested city streets. "Taxis are an important part of the urban landscape, and the Transit Connect Taxi concept represents a potential game-changer, given its small footprint, comfortable, spacious interior, fuel-efficient engine and affordability," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas. "We're interested to see how people react." Well how do you feel about it then, like it, or hate it?

Bournmouth Taxi Test.

More than 100 Bournemouth taxi drivers have been suspended for failing to take a health and safety exam which has been branded as demeaning and silly. The course covers topics such as how to talk to customers, assessing their body language in the rear-view mirror and even “conflict management”.
Another part amazingly tells them how to lift a suitcase. This teaches the driver to “risk assess” before doing so, by sizing up the shape of the load, the surrounding environment and their fitness level.
But a large proportion of the cabbies in Bournemouth, Dorset, opted out after branding it “patronising common sense.”
Council officials have now suspended 101 licenses and they will only be given back if the drivers sign up to the tax-payer funded course within the next two months.
One local cabbie says “I admit that some of the information is useful, like how to react if you come across a serious accident, but the majority is just common sense. “It’s an idiot’s course, it’s ridiculous.” “You are even told how to say hello to a customer and lift luggage - it’s quite patronising really.”
Their drivers were given until February 2008 to sit the exam and were told they would be suspended if they did not meet the deadline.
Text books covering topics including licensing regulations, carriage of luggage, route planning, disability awareness and customer service were given to the drivers.
In the customer service book, drivers are told to revise a diagram about how to talk to passengers. It has three childish green speech bubbles with glaringly obvious examples of greetings to say as a customer climbs into the taxi, like “hello Mrs Smith”, “nice to see you again” and “good morning, how are you?”
Drivers are also told to learn how to read body language from their rear-view mirror.
The book states: “Being able to recognise body language and facial expressions is essential when dealing with customers.
Drivers are also advised on “conflict management techniques” to help cool difficult situations with passengers and are recommended to remember five symbols to help them.
They are a “wise owl” which symbolises teamwork and co-operation to achieve a solution, a “wily fox” which represents winning something while losing a little.
The “soft teddy bear” approach appeases others by down-playing conflict; the “man-eating shark” represents the driver winning the argument or conflict while the “elderly turtle” approach means you walk away.
Another book has a large section on “Carriage of Luggage and Parcels”.
There is a diagram showing a human-shaped model bending down to lift a box.
Bournemouth council was the first authority to adopt the course as a requirement for the town’s taxi and private hire drivers.
“We are proud to be an authority who is leading the way by providing our drivers with this training" they say.
“Almost 700 of our drivers have successfully qualified and should be congratulated on their achievement with a number of others currently training. “We have to take firm action against those drivers who have not trained.” As well as the 700 drivers who have completed the course, another 200 have signed up to it while the rest have been suspended.
My god lets hope this silly training scheme doesn’t become more widespread. The books sound like something written for five year olds, what’s the world coming to.

Eye Test

Well what with all the recent interest in the Blind Taxi post, I thought I would be cruel and post this eye test chart for chaps of a certain age. Frustrating ain't it? Cheers to Bill for the pic.

John Petrolhead Hutton

In his Budget last week, Alistair Darling clobbered motorists with new taxes on gas-guzzling cars. He was taking the unpopular decision, he explained, to encourage drivers to dump vehicles that pump out the most pollution. Some ministers are keen to replace traditional British-built ministerial cars with environmentally-friendly hybrid vehicles made overseas such as the Japanese-made Toyota Prius. But our local for MP Barrow, John Hutton who is also a senior member of Cabinet as the Business Minister has chosen to ignore the Government policy. He uses a 2.7-litre Jaguar XJ6 for travelling to and from Whitehall. His excuse is that he needed to be seen in a British vehicle to support domestic car manufacturers.
It would send out the wrong signal if ministers backed proposals that would mean importing more cars, he said.
Self-confessed "petrol head" Mr Hutton defended his decision to use the £40,000 Jaguar, telling a committee of MPs: "I support the fact that ministers can choose a hybrid car if that is what they want, but I chose British.
"I would like to see more UK hybrids and there is a real opportunity there for British manufacturers but I do not think that the answer is to force everyone to drive around in bubble cars."
But of course we all know that there are a host of cars made in the UK that are greener and less expensive than Mr Hutton's £40,000 2.7-litre diesel, which emits 214g/km of carbon dioxide.
Who knows perhaps he also has a petrol guzzling 4X4 stashed away to use on his day trips up to see his serfs in Barrow, just to help him look down on us common folk whilst he negotiates our potholed roads.
Is it perhaps a case of do as I say, and not as I do, or one rule for him and another for us common folk. Personally I feel that he should be made to travel by tube or bus to Whitehall like us mere overtaxed commoners have to.

Wednesday, March 19

Aussie Cab Takes the Steps

SHOCKED City pedestrians watched in horror early yesterday afternoon as a taxi that made a wrong turn ended up balancing at the top of a steep flight of stairs in Charlotte St. The taxi was manoeuvring around the St Stephen's Cathedral when the driver turned the wrong way along one side of the landmark building. It stopped just in time to keep from falling down 40 stairs. Passerby Steve Bolack said up to 50 people came out of their offices to look at the spectacle. "It looks like the cabbie must have thought a road was there because he drove straight at it," Mr Bolack said. "It's lucky he wasn't going faster because he very nearly could have fallen all the way." The driver escaped uninjured and a tow truck pulled the taxi to safety about 2pm. Police interviewed the contrite cabbie yesterday afternoon but it was unknown if charges would be laid. Black and White Cabs general manager John Tighe said it was an unfortunate incident. "The driver is shaken but OK," he said. "He just made an error and turned the wrong way. I'm not sure how he ended up down by the side of the building. He obviously hasn't done that job before and it's fortunate he was going slow."

Tuesday, March 18

Blind Taxi

Nice clean car and immaculately turned out driver, but look closer glasses and a magnifying glass!
 Would you be willing to risk riding in the back of this taxi?

$100 Question

We taxi drivers are usually a font of all local knowledge. We can tell you where to eat and more importantly where not to eat in town.. We can tell you what time the supermarkets open and close and if they are busy. We can tell you the busiest pubs and clubs for any day or time. We can offer totally unqualified medical and legal advice, whether you ask for it or not. We can even tell you the latest version of any local gossip and scandal that’s doing the rounds, whether it’s true or not. But the most popular question by far and one we get asked by hundreds of passengers,usually when they are half way to their destination is usually impossible to answer. The question is always accompanied by a patting of pockets or rummaging in the handbag. And the question is "did I lock my door" doh, how do I know eh!

Monday, March 17

Pre Packed Lamb

Driving down the back lanes near Furness Abbey, I spotted that the new born lambs all seemed to be wearing bright orange fluorescent jackets. Was this elf n safety gone mad, did the farmer have some strange PVC fetish, or maybe he was a sheepish follower of fashion? But no it turns out that these plastic sheep jackets are the latest high tech way of preventing hypothermia in new born lambs. Still they looked good in them, I had a few trips going past there with lasses going to the local college and they were all delighted by the colourful baa lambs.

More photos on Two Steps Back.

Dear Pies

Unlike a lot of Barrow taxi drivers I'm not a big devourer of our local delicacy, the meat and potato pie. But I was surprised by just what lengths folk will go to get their hands on these tasty morsels. One of my fares today wanted to go on a short trip which would have cost them about £2, at the most. But first they wanted to go to Greens pie shop and grab some pies for lunch. When we pulled up outside I felt sure that the long queue snaking out of the shop and down the street would change their minds. But no, they asked me to wait and they joined the long line of hungry pie-munchers. And so I waited, and waited and waited some more, until they finally emerged victorious with the spoils. And so a £2 fare turned into £7.50p fare, wow all I can say is that the pies must be good if folks are prepared to go to that sort of expense for them.

Saturday, March 15

New Bridge for Walney

Walney Islands only bridge being stuck in the open position on Wednesday night for one and a half hours reinforces what we locals have known for years. “Walney Island needs a new bridge” and not just a replacement for the existing antique structure, but a brand new extra bridge.
What with a population of fourteen thousand, most of which seem to be car owners, it’s vital that this large proportion of Barrow taxpayers are not left stranded again.
If a new bridge were built linking the bottom of Mill Lane and Ironworks Road, folk working on the industrial estates on Ironworks road and Park road and those wanting to go out of town wouldn’t need to go anywhere near the town’s centres busiest roads. This would cut out a huge amount of traffic at a stroke and at the same time save both fuel and time. Maybe the millions which have been wasted on pointless road schemes like the new disastrously silly one way system, and Tesco’s tragic roundabout should have been used to finance this badly needed new bridge.

It seems that my prediction the other Friday, of fresh road schemes being started without consulting us; the road users have been proved right already. Barrow’s Hindpool Rd has been closed, causing spectacular tailbacks. This they tell me is the first phase of a road scheme for a new road down the former Cornmill sidings. And yet again we have the same contractor who has a bad record of being late finishing contracts, sometimes by many months. And why on earth has this new scheme even been started when the one way system is still far from being finished.

Friday, March 14

Cheeky Bike

What with being a Taxi driver, which is a very sedentary life, I was thinking of maybe getting a bike for some exercise. But checking out E-Bay I come across this model for sale from Germany .Mmm don't think that would go down so well here in down town Barrow in Furness, so I won't bother with this one. But if any of you folks would like one, the bids stand at e1499 euros or $2336.

Thursday, March 13

Two Steps Back

I had a sudden surge of 168 hits to my other blog Two Steps Back yesterday, which turns out was because blogger linked it on the Navbar. Aye well never mind it gave me the kick up the backside I needed to tidy it up and have a revamp. What do ya reckon then? Any better?
The photo is of the storms that hit the coast road here yesterday.

Wednesday, March 12

New York Cab Tips

How to take a cab in New York City. Most of it applies worldwide but I really like the suggestion "to give the driver a nice tip."

Tuesday, March 11

Low Road Disco

Well Barrow's long dreaded new one way system has finally opened for business, even though it is obviously nowhere near completion. As expected we had long delays and confused motorists, none more so than the poor out of town visitors who were trying to find the way out of town. One frustrated driver, one of the many that I had watched muttering whilst driving round Hollywood park Roundabout four or five times, stopped and pleaded to be told the way out. It seems that like a lot of folk now, when going to a strange town he depends on his Sat-Nav to lead him the way. The confusing voice from his Sat-Nav kept telling him to turn left, which would take the wrong way into the one way system. I can see it being many years before Sat-Navs are updated to tell the confused drivers that they strangely have to head towards Walney Island to find the way out of town. And unsurprisingly we have been granted yet another set of traffic lights from the seemingly endless supply, for the Low road to Walney. That makes three sets of traffic lights in a matter of few hundred yards, all completely uncoordinated and brilliantly confusing. This short stretch of road will soon become the envy of Barrow's nightclubs; club goers from miles around will come to admire the spectacular lightshow. Whilst stuck between these lights for twenty minutes or so this morning I started to count the individual red, green and amber lights, I lost count in amazement when I reached the staggering number of eighty-five.

Monday, March 10

Birthday Biker

Early Sunday morning and one of my first fares stood waiting for me outside a vandalised phone box. Even from a distance and despite the fact that he was wearing civvies, I knew instantly that this guy was a biker. And when I say biker, I don’t mean one of the born again middle aged weekend warriers that we see on expensive Japanese super bikes at nearby Devils Bridge. This was one of the guys who live and breathe Harley, BSA, Norton and Triumph. Proper bikes they will tell you, for folk who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. He had a shaven head with a large tattoo covering most of his skull and should have looked kind of menacing, but the glum expression on his face told a different story. As we drove and chatted on the ten miles or so to his home he told me the story. It had been his birthday the day before and a big party had been arranged for the Saturday night. But sadly despite sending out dozens of invites not as many folk as he expected had turned up. By the time we turned into his street he was still a bit downhearted but putting on a brave face. As we neared his house I saw stood outside the meanest fiercest bunch of bikers you could imagine, all tattoos, chains, leather and oil stains. My first thought was “oh no this looks like trouble” but the huge grin which broke out on my fares face proved me wrong. The oil stained tattooed hands held out pretty pastel coloured envelopes and ribbon tied packages. It seems that some of his biker buddy’s had travelled many miles to bring him greetings cards and wish him a belated happy birthday.

Sunday, March 9

King Lear the Taxi Driver

Flashgun Films teamed up Davidson Garrett a poet, actor and taxi cab driver in New York City for this brilliantly done short film. Davidson Garrett has documented his experiences in a recently published book of poems entitled: “King Lear of the Taxi: Musings of a New York City Actor/Taxi Driver.” The book is a philosophical glimpse of an ever-changing city by an actor who must drive a taxi for survival. Through poetry and prose, Davidson Garrett documents his thespian dreams and artistic struggles from behind the wheel of a cab as he glances at humanity in his rear-view mirror.
Flashgun filmed local cab drivers in Stoke-on-Trent where all the footage was shot. The film carries a serious message, especially in light of the violence experienced against taxi drivers in the UK.
It may be a bit slow to load, but I think it's worth the wait.

Saturday, March 8

Naughty Nurse.

Eyes were popping and jaws were dropping down Rawlinson St way early this Saturday morning. It seems that one of Friday’s revellers was on her weary way home after a long night on the tiles. But the night out must have had a fancy dress theme and the lass was wearing what looked like a naughty Nurses outfit, complete with short skirt, stockings and suspenders. Not that I looked of course, but my taxi steering seemed to lock and ended up taking me round the block a time or two. As she reached the two garages on Rawlinson St, work ground to a standstill and swarms of eager mechanics rushed out knocking each other over to try and get a better view. Luckily my steering seemed to have righted itself because I had to take avoiding action as two cars and a milk float drifted to the wrong side of the road and straight at me. Yes 9am Saturday morning is definitely not a good time to be seen dressed like that, some of the poor guys looked as if they might need the services of a genuine nurse after that shock. Maybe she will be sensible next time and get a taxi home!

Thursday, March 6

Cool Granny

This auld lass just doesn't bat an eyelid when nearly flattened by a car. A real cool gran eh!

Wednesday, March 5

Fastest Limo

The world's fastest limousine - a 170mph stretch Ferrari - is facing the chop after the supercar maker threatened legal action - for infringing its trademark.

The car, which is rented out for £700 an hour, was created by owner Dan Cawley and former McLaren carbon fibre expert Chris Wright.

It took over a year to convert the £130,000 black 360 Modena, which was bought second hand for £55,000. The project was completed in September 2007. It claimed the Guinness World Record for fastest limousine - at 166mph - six months ago.

Surprisingly, the car returns an average of 15mpg on the motorway and costs only £1,800 a year to comprehensively insure for passenger-carrying duties.

Stunned owner Dan Cawley has been ordered to remove all badges from the 20ft-long, 400bhp limo and told never to modify a Ferrari again.

Lawyers claim that since he cut the 360 Modena in half and stretched it with a 9.5ft section of hand-built carbon fibre, it is no longer a Ferrari. But Dan claims he approached Ferrari UK before he began the £200,000 conversion and was told he could "do what he liked" as the car was his own property.

It is now 20ft long and seats eight people - but has lost little of its performance because it weighs just 160kg more than the original 1390kg car.

The 3.6 litre V8 engine launches the car from 0 to 60mph in under six seconds and has a top speed of around 166mph - just 17mph less than the standard 183mph car.

Dan who is from Manchester, has been given 14 days to remove all prancing horse badges, Ferrari names and 360 Modena symbols. He has also been told never to refer to the car as a Ferrari again, and never to modify another of their cars.

Dan is now taking legal advice to fight the supercar giant. He said: "What kind of precedent does it set when you can't do what you like with your own property?

"We built this as a supercar for the masses, so ordinary people could get the chance to have a ride in something they'd normally only dream of. Now that opportunity could be snatched away from them.

"I'm not being bullied into this. We have to fight on behalf of all limo builders and car tuners out there." The car, which is rented out for £700 an hour, was created by Dan and former McLaren carbon fibre expert Chris Wright.

It took over a year to convert the £130,000 black 360 Modena, which was bought second hand for £55,000. The project was completed in September 2007. It claimed the Guinness World Record for fastest limousine - at 166mph - six months ago.

Surprisingly, the car returns an average of 15mpg on the motorway and costs only £1,800 a year to comprehensively insure for passenger-carrying duties.


A cabbie is flagged down by a nun late one night.

She gets into the cab, and notices that the VERY handsome cab driver won’t stop staring at her.

She asks him why he is staring.

He replies:

“I have a question to ask you but I don’t want to offend you.”

She answers,

“My son, you cannot offend me. When you’re as old as I am and have been a nun as long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about everything. I’m sure that there’s nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive.”

“Well, I’ve always had a fantasy to have a nun kiss me.”

She responds,” Well, let’s see what we can do about that: #1, you have to be single and #2, you must be Catholic.”

The cab driver is very excited and says,” Yes, I’m single and Catholic!”

“OK” the nun says. “Pull into the next alley.”

The nun fulfils his fantasy, with a kiss that would make a hooker blush.

But when they get back on the road, the cab driver starts crying.

“My dear child,” says the nun, “why are you crying?” “Forgive me but I’ve sinned. I lied and I must confess, I’m married and I’m Jewish.”

The nun says, “That’s OK My name is Kevin and I’m going to a Halloween party

Tuesday, March 4

Sober Weekend

Over the weekend I picked up a visiting young Asian couple from Barrow's railway station and took them to a local hotel. They were just staying for a couple of days and asked me what they should do and see. Of course I told them all about Furness Abbey, the Dock Museum and Dalton Wildlife Park. Then they asked me about the local nightlife and I started to list all our local fleshpots. After I had given them the long list of pubs and nightclubs, they asked a question which completely threw me. "We don't drink alcohol at all" they informed me "are these places OK for non drinkers?" Now we have to admit that Barrow is a hard drinking town and younger folk’s idea of a night out involves gallons of booze. So apart from the movies there was nowhere else that I could recommend to them which wouldn't involve alcohol. But they said they would risk it and soberly throw themselves to the tender mercies of Barrow's Gaza strip, and then the boat afterwards, and hope for the best. By sheer chance I happened to pick them up the next day after they had enjoyed a visit to our local wildlife park. I of course asked them how the big night out on the town went. They both started to laugh and said it was great and “it was exactly the same as going round the zoo that they had just visited." So there you have it, next time you want an entertaining evening stay sober and check out the wildlife in the pubs and clubs of Barrow.

Monday, March 3

Tin Town

Most local folk were surprised by the sudden closure of Barrow’s ten pin bowing alley recently. But when you stand back and take a closer look round Hollywood Park, the retail and Entertainment Park it was located on, then maybe it’s not so surprising. The whole place has the feel of a badly built film set for a budget spaghetti western, or some hastily constructed temporary sheep shearing station deep in the Australian outback. Surely our town deserves better than this rusting collection of tin sheds. Even the lampposts are badly designed, being flat on top and ideal for the local seagulls to perch atop ready to swoop on unsuspecting al-fresco diners. Staff members who have to work in these poorly insulated tin sheds tell me that they are baked in summer and have to freeze in winter. Yes I’m afraid that our town’s bigwigs have got a lot to answer for by allowing this shanty town to be thrown up in the first place. The only thing which isn’t a joke about the place are the over inflated rents they have the cheek to charge for these places. The only businesses which can afford these shacks are the big multi nationals, local firms simply couldn’t afford it.

Saturday, March 1

Fare Fall Out

A TAXI driver has been convicted of dangerous driving involving an incident in which a passenger jumped from his cab and died.
Avtar Mander was originally charged with causing death by dangerous driving but that charge was dismissed by a judge before it came to trial.
However on Friday he stood trial at Luton Crown Court on the charge of dangerous driving before a jury who were never told the full tragic consequences of the night's events.
The Judge said Mander was not responsible for the death of 20-year-old Oliver Livings, from Langford, but said: "As a taxi driver there is a higher duty of care to your passengers which you ignored."
Mander, 40, of Letchworth, who had been a taxi driver for 14 years, was fined £500 and banned from driving for a year. He must also pay £2,500 costs.
Prosecutor Maurice Aston told the jury that in the early hours of August 5, 2006 five young men hired a cab after a night out in Hitchin to take them home to Langford. They negotiated a price of £30 with Mander.
He stopped at a social club where they wanted to be dropped off, but after three got out he had the impression he was not going to be paid and decided to drive the remaining two to a police station.
The seven-seater taxi had sliding doors and he drove off with the door in the open locked position. He called police en route and the tape of the call was played to the jury.
Mr Livings could be heard remonstrating with the driver.
The other remaining passenger, Elliott Owen, said he had not been aware of any intention not to pay the fare, although he had no money on him at the time.
"Oliver was telling the driver to calm down and that we would give him his money but then he jumped from the taxi. The taxi went faster. My initial reaction was shock. The driver did not say anything."
But he said the driver did calm down and pulled up a little further on when the door was closed.
Mander claimed he was acting under duress.
Geoffrey Birch, defending, said: "He was faced with an unexpected situation and in the heat of the moment made the decision to drive to the police station. He was putting the matter in the hands of the law and doing the right thing. However things then went very wrong.
"He either drove without checking the door was secure or without giving any thought to that matter.

Cover Up

A COUNCIL has been accused of acting like “Big Brother” because it has banned pictures of scantily clad women from being used on local taxis.
Cosmetic surgery chain MYA (Make Yourself Amazing) applied to Newcastle City Council to use its designs, which include pictures of models in bikinis, on the exterior of the city’s Hackney Carriages.
But MYA’s designs have been rejected by the council on the grounds that they would be too distracting for motorists.
The designs were sent to the council for approval this week with plans to launch the advertising scheme today, and keep the contract running for an indefinite period in order to raise MYA’s profile in Newcastle.
MYA Cosmetic Surgery, who say their advertising campaigns celebrate the beauty of the female form, have one of their flagship clinics situated on the Newcastle Quayside, and already have a number of their own vehicles with similar branded designs.
MYA Chairman and owner of Doncaster Rovers football club, John Ryan, said he was disappointed with the council’s decision.
He said: “This is such a shame for us and we are quite frankly stunned at the council’s decision.
“We were very excited about increasing our awareness in the Newcastle area. What is going to be next for Newcastle? Are women going to be banned from walking on pavements?”
And local taxi driver Paul Allen also said he felt Newcastle Council had overreacted to the designs. He said: “I have seen certain branded cars with ladies wearing not much on the side.
“It is not like they’re naked and it has never made me take my eyes off the road. It is like Big Brother – women on the streets may be forced to cover up. How far do you go?”

A spokesman said: “Newcastle City Council has a duty to protect the safety of other road users. We believe this particular image, which is white and appears prominently on the rear of a vehicle, would distract other drivers and cause accidents.”

Fine Mess

A TAXI driver who couldn't resist a quick smoke in his cab found himself in court - and a whooping £715 out of pocket.
Basildon magistrates heard on November 2 last year, a Council official spotted Alan Cross smoking in his taxi on the Grays railway station rank. He was warned he faced a fine or possible prosecution.
Later the same day, he was again seen smoking by five witnesses, the court was told. After that, the council suspended his taxi licence.
Cross, 47, failed to attend court, claiming he had not been notified and was still preparing the case for his defence.
He admits the first offence, but claims he was nowhere near the rank when officials claim the second offence was committed. He says he is the victim of mistaken identity.
In his absence, Cross was found guilty of smoking in a taxi - an offence against the 2006 Health Act - and failing to comply with the request of an officer.
He was fined £300 and ordered to pay costs of £400, plus a £15 victim surcharge.
He said: "Every lunchtime, when this is alleged to have happened, I'm not on the rank. I'm taking my wife to or from work, depending on her shift.
"Through my solicitor, I applied for an adjournment, but we didn't hear anything until the local newspaper rang to tell me what had happened in court. I'm stunned and angry. I have not had my day in court and I have been hit with a ridiculous fine."
A councilor responsible for community protection, said: "The council takes the protection of residents very seriously and is under an obligation to act against those who flout the law."