Sunday, September 30

The Big House

It's hard to believe that in this day and age stories are still coming to light of folk spending years trapped in institutions. Often sometimes simply as a result of a long forgotten petty crime or because they suffered from learning disabilities. Or as in the case of a lovely old lady who is one of my regular fares, simply because she suffered from epilepsy. "Things were different back then" she says by way of forgiveness about the forty years she spent in "the big house." This was her name for the epilepsy hospital that was her home from the age of 16 until her release at the age of 56, too late for children, and any hope of what we would call a normal life? But still as she says "things were different back then” Just how different is illustrated by this recently told true story.

"Seventy years locked up in institutions hardly seems to be a punishment that befits the crime of stealing half-a-crown."
However, it is just such a fate that befell Jean Gambell when at the age of 15, in 1937, she was falsely accused of stealing 2s 6d (12.5p) from the doctor's surgery where she worked as a cleaner. She was sectioned under the 1890 Lunacy Act even though the money was later found, she has been moved from mental institution to mental institution. More recently, she went into a care home and has been lost to her family, who thought she was dead. But last month, by chance, her brother stumbled across correspondence which led to the discovery of her existence and the family was reunited. Her brother David Gambell, 63, who still lives in his mother's old home in Wirral, Merseyside, received a questionnaire addressed to his mother from Macclesfield Mews Care Home. "I thought it was just a survey for old people and I was about to throw it away when I saw Jean's name pencilled in on one corner," he said yesterday. "I couldn't believe it. I suddenly realised that my sister was still alive. I rang the care home straight away and they confirmed that our sister was there." He and his brother Alan, who had last seen their sister as small children when she was allowed to visit home with two wardens as guards, travelled to the Macclesfield home. They were told by staff that their 85-year-old sister was deaf, could only communicate in writing and was very unlikely to remember them. "A little old lady on walking sticks came in," said Alan. "She looked at us and cried out: 'Alan...David'. Then she put her arms around us. It was very emotional. "I am sure that what has kept her going all these years was the challenge of proving to the authorities that she had a family. The trouble was, nobody would listen to her." The brothers spent much of their childhood in orphanages because their parents were so poor. They said that they had later discovered that their father had tried for years to get Jean freed after she was put in Cranage Hall mental hospital in Macclesfield for being "of feeble mind", but was unsuccessful because her records had been mislaid. She spent years, lost in a maze of instutitons and care homes, trying to convince people in authority that she had a family. But nobody would believe her, because as my lovely old lady says "things were different back then."

Saturday, September 29


News reaches me that a group of taxi drivers in Essex are reporting themselves as among the most professional cabbies in the country.
Around 50 drivers from Chelmsford have received an NVQ in Road Passenger Transport and become members of the town's Quality Taxi Partnership.
The NVQ scheme, funded by the Learning and Skills Council, has introduced training in the areas of customer care, health and safety, safer driving and legal matters.
John Spencer, deputy cabinet member for highways and transportation ,tells us: “Taxi drivers work very hard in Essex at giving their customers the service they want, but this qualification will help them to achieve that something extra special."
This is obviously a load of old tommy rot, as everybody knows fine well that us Northern taxi drivers are the country's elite. Some might say I'm prejudice but it's a well known fact that us Northerners are a more friendly and trustworthy bunch. Still it's a good idea in principle, I'm all for any idea that improves the image of cab drivers.

Wednesday, September 26

Cyber Taxi

The UK town of Daventry hopes to the first to have a driverless transport system.
In effect a driverless taxi, well lets hope it's slow to spread to this neck of the woods otherwise I will be out of a job. Check out the manufacturers Cyber Cars.
Now take a look at the video courtesy of the good old BBC, click the link below.

Driverless Taxi

Tuesday, September 25

Park n Pay

I wonder how long it is before the proposed idea of paying to park your car in works car parks reaches here. The "workplace parking levy" is seen as an alternative to road pricing. Nottingham city council is the first of a number of councils ready to impose charges on companies that provide their staff with parking spaces.
It proposes imposing the charge on companies with more than 10 staff parking spaces.
The initial fee would be £185 a year from 2010, rising to £350 in 2014.

The Transport Act gives councils the powers to impose and enforce workplace parking levies.
This also allows town halls to use enforcement officers who could not only inspect workplace car parks but issue parking tickets for anyone who had not paid.
Failing to pay the charge could lead to a £175 fine. It sounds like too good of a money earner for our councils to resist.
But think of the boost to the taxi trade, with this charge in place it would make perfect sense for folk to share a taxi to work and save a heap of cash. Come to think of it, why have a car at all, it will be cheaper to use taxis. Great idea eh!

Monday, September 24


You know if we had a few forward thinking visionaries amongst the folk who are in charge of our local road network we could save millions. Hey never mind visionaries, just a few with common sense would do. Who in their right minds spends nigh on a million pounds on a strange dangerous roundabout with pedestrian crossings within yards, when a simple set of traffic lights with a combined crossing would have done the job? And who would be so arrogant as to spend £2.4m of our money on an unwanted and unnecessary one way road scheme. And all this without consulting us the folk that use these roads day in day out. And yet we let them get away with it every time I'm beginning to realise that folk round here are very apathetic and just seem to let these faceless bureaucrats do just what they want. This was proved yet again by a recent public meeting about a local sewage works plans for a huge expansion. This works has been causing problems for locals with smells for the last few years and you would expect a lot of people would be concerned. But no apart from the officials and some bored local councillors, a grand total of fifteen locals made the effort. I know I was one of them, on the way home I saw a bigger crowd smoking outside a pub. Maybe next time they should hold the meeting in a pub and have fag breaks every ten minutes eh!

Sunday, September 23

Trade Tales

One of the interesting things about the taxi trade is the stories and insights into other folks jobs we get to hear. Some tales I am told are never going to be repeated for obvious reasons, but here are a couple of recent tales told to me. The first from a shopkeeper who runs a small corner convenience store, selling mainly snacks, booze and fags. She has a regular customer, a single mother with three or four toddlers, who shops there for essentials several times daily. The young mum had dashed into the shop and excitedly told her "great my milk tokens have come at last, they were four days late, now I can have my coffee with milk in again." The shopkeeper told me that she had to stop herself from screaming at her. She knew that this meant that the toddlers would have been without milk to drink or pour on cereal for those four days. But in the meantime the young mum had been coming in the shop every day for her essentials. In her case those essentials were forty cigarettes and a two litre bottle of Lambrini (cheap wine).
Next was the young schoolteacher who told me of her troubled days, sadly she assures me that it's an all too common problem. The previous day she had to have words with a youngster who had been disruptive in class and was bullying smaller kids. Within five minutes of the end of the school day the child's mother burst into the school and threatened the young teacher with violence. This she told me was the reason she had decided to take a taxi home that night rather than walk home. I was appalled by this crazy situation but even more appalled when I realised that I had picked her up from a primary school. This means that the little dears she teaches range in age from four up to eleven

Saturday, September 22

Secret Sign

This sign amuses me no end, talk about contradictory eh! But believe it or not it is a real sign pointing the way to an Essex tourist attraction. Take a look here

Friday, September 21


Normally forecourt fuel prices drop sharply as summer draws to a close.
But this year the cost of a litre fell by only one penny last month – compared to eight pence the previous year.
With the price of crude oil hitting $82 a barrel in the USA, the prediction is for pump prices to rise rather than fall over the next few months.
Added to this, the Government has imposed a 2 pence increase in fuel duty.
With darker evenings and worsening weather adding to fuel consumption from use of wipers, heaters and lights this all adds up to bad news for the taxi trade
October’s tax increase is the second in a year and the Treasury will no doubt press ahead with the rise, despite pleas from motoring groups to shelve it.
It.s said that Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, failed to take into consideration the volatility of oil prices when he prepared his last Budget.
So if anyone knows of a horse going cheap, which doesn't eat too much and is good in traffic let me know. I'll find myself a set of shafts and yoke it up to the taxi, only thing is that if the treasury find out they will no doubt start taxing hay.

Tuesday, September 18

Crime Wave

Lots of my fares have been commenting on the mini crime boom that we seem to be having here in Barrow lately. But what with two stabbings a house fire blamed on arson and a death blamed on allegedly poison heroin who can blame them. I always try to point out to my passengers, especially the older folk that if you look closer at these type of incidents they all have a few things in common. Firstly they usually take place at the dead of night when most sensible folk are tucked up safe and sound in bed. And mostly these cases involved people who know each other, it's not something which is happening between random strangers. But the most reassuring thing is that arrests have been made within hours. We really should be thankful that things are nowhere near as bad as in some of our bigger city's.
A father and his teenage daughter who were passengers today told me their story which confirmed that
for me even more. They had moved to Barrow from London after being victims of crime on an almost weekly basis. The father who had lived here many years ago had packed in a well paid job to move, so that he could give his family some quality of life. The daughter who you would expect to be missing the bright lights of London was loving it here. She said "I can actually go out and have a social life." The father then got a bit choked up as he told me that the lass had been mugged twice outside her own front door, with even the trainers being stolen of her feet the last time.

Monday, September 17

Wacky Baccy

"I smoke mackrel"says the painted sign on a town centre back door. Who or what is Mackrel I wonder? Any ideas anyone?

Saturday, September 15

Horny Women

What is it nowadays with women and car horns? The slightest indiscretion "real or imagined" from another driver, be they male or female and it's an outraged long loud blast on the horn.
Some seem to regard it as some sort of weapon which will remove all obstacles and annoyances from their path.
The worst culprits and by far the most annoying are the small orange skinned bottle blonde's driving oversize 4x4s, who are in a rush to get to the beauty salon. Most blokes would never use their horns like this, they know that theirs always a chance that some big hairy trucker may take offence and decide to relocate the horn somewhere less comfortable. But the growing band of female honkers seem to think that somehow their being members of the fairer sex will protect them from road rage. It may work with chivalrous softies like me but as we all know not everybody's like me. It only takes a blast on the horn directed at someone who has been on a diet of super strength steroids and it could be your last toot.

Friday, September 14


Well here we go again, local drivers had just got used to Barrow's Holker St being back open after seven long months and they go and shut it again. Even worse is the fact that drivers get no advance warning signs,thus giving them the chance to avoid the area by using Ainslie St. Everybody gets stuck in the same diversion as last time which takes you down some of the bumpiest worst maintained streets in town.
One of our longest established garages "Pye Motors"a main Ford dealer, no less is again marooned with no passing trade and this time having to use a well hidden temporary access. Surely they must have lost a considerable amount of trade for the seven months that Holker St was closed last time, but this time it would take a really determined customer to find their way into the garage.
Although the new Abbey road Rawlinson street junction is a big improvement, I think that maybe some Barrow drivers aren't yet ready for this big city style junction. With it being a phased filter light junction some drivers just seem to catch a glimpse of green and through they go not noticing that the light for their lane is on red. The other silly trick some are doing is to set off when the cars alongside do, without even looking at the lights. I have seen lots of near misses lately and guess I will see a lot more until locals get used to this, for some complicated junction.

Wednesday, September 12


For years blokes worldwide seeking to escape nagging wifes and life's tribulations have hidden away in the solitary, cobwebbed gloom of their garden sheds.
But over in Australia hobby handymen are flocking to take up tools at communal sheds across the country. What a great idea, and one that we should be adopting over here. Instead of pottering alone, men gather in groups, drilling and hammering while setting the world to rights over frequent mugs of tea. More than 200 such community sheds have sprung up over the past decade, and many more are planned. The 10,000-strong "men's shed movement" is one of the fastest-growing interest groups in the country, and officials are sitting up and taking notice. Not only do the sheds provide a practical community support network, they also give their users a potential health boost. The Sheddies, as they are known, are mainly older handymen, most of them retired and some widowed. For the men, tackling a spot of woodwork at a communal shed seems to lift their spirits and provides them with a new group of "mates." Saws, screwdrivers and drills hang along the walls, alongside try squares, trays of nails and an array of power tools. Its regular users make toys for hospitals, games for retirement homes and repair furniture for community groups. "The woodwork and other hobby's are the excuse, not the reason, why men come here," said one of the organisers "They come for companionship, even though they may not admit it. I have seen amazing changes in these blokes"Talking becomes easier." At the frequent brew times tools are downed and the men perch on stools to drink tea and talk. Half an hour later they are hard at work again, the sound of sawing punctuated by laughter. Barry Golding, a professor of education at Ballarat University in Victoria, who has completed the first comprehensive study of men's sheds, described it as the most exciting research he had undertaken. "It's a myth that men don't talk - they do if they are given the right opportunity," he said. "Sheds give men licence to celebrate being men and to be sensitive and supportive about each other. "If you put up a sign that says Men's Health Centre, men won't come. If you put up a sign that says Men's Learning Centre, men won't come. But if the sign says Men's Shed, then people will come. And that's when the magic begins."

Sunday, September 9

Stolen Goods

Nine thirty on a Sunday morning and my fares emerge tumbling and laughing like two kids from a local all night house party. Two guys one from Australia and the other from New Zealand and both built like brick outhouses, the car sat down and the springs groaned when they fell into the back seats.
"What you get mate come on lets see" said the Aussie, the Kiwi laughing puts his hand inside his shirt and pulls out a bath towel. "Well I guess I win then, you won't beat this mate" he says to the Aussie, then puts the towel on his head like an Arab headdress and starts to whoop loudly. "Oh yeah" says the Aussie and starts rummaging under his clothes, after a struggle he produces a large round kitchen wall clock. After arguing for a while about who the winner was they
decided that I should be the final judge. I protested that "I didn't know what I was supposed to be judging" and that "I wanted nowt to do with stolen goods." "No mate you've got it wrong" said the Aussie and went on to tell me that they went to friends house party's most weekends and it had become a standing joke that they secretly borrowed items. The next week the householders were invited to another house party where the possessions would be on show, and bets were taken about how long before they spotted them. "Now then who wins" they demanded, both were big bruisers so I had no easy option.
Looking in the rear view mirror and taking a last look at my full set of teeth and my face with its carefully cultured lived in look, I made the choice. The Kiwi with the towel still on his head took on the solemn look of a bewigged high court judge and announced "yeah fair do's mate the clocks the winner"

Saturday, September 8

Dozy Doors

Well I nearly lost one of my back passenger doors again today. And yet again the culprit was gossiping on a mobile phone, and just threw the door wide open without looking or as it seems to me even caring. But I wonder just how many people realise that they can be prosecuted for opening passenger doors carelessly.
They tell me that the offence consists of opening, causing or permitting a car door to be opened so as to cause injury or danger to any person. And yes that does mean by a passenger as well as the driver. And even if a child opened the door and his parent was present and knew the child was about to open the door, then the parent could be charged with permitting the offence. Or if junior opened the door on the say so of a parent then mummy or daddy could be guilty of causing the offence.
The prosecution does not have to prove carelessness; nor that someone was actually struck or injured. It is enough if the act caused danger. And danger it certainly does cause, just ask the poor old lass who was hit on the knees by a carelessly thrown open car door in Barrow town centre last week. And before you ask; no it wasn't a taxi it was one of those dreaded blue badge parking hogs.

Friday, September 7

Polski Sklep

We may be located at the end of a thirty mile cul-de-sac but it can't be denied that multiculturalism is finally hitting Barrow in a big way. This has been proved by the opening of Barrows first Polish grocery shop on Rawlinson St. This could be a big hit with the local Polish community, such as the two lads I picked up last week from Tesco who were as pleased as punch with the Polish beer they had found on sale there. Luckily most Barrovians seem to have a soft spot for the Polish folk
and seem to make them welcome. Let's hope that the goodwill doesn't wear thin when we get the predicted big influx expected next year when construction starts on the huge new BAE building. But it's not just Polish folk who are recent arrivals to Barrow.
Just last week
my fares included Polish, Nigerians, Lithuanians, Portuguese, Malaysians, Thai and a gem of a lady from Tobago, who insisted on a formal introduction and shaking hands before getting in the cab.

Tuesday, September 4


It's funny how you seem to forget just how much more traffic hits the roads when the school term starts again. I find I even have to take different routes to avoid the worst of the peak time jams. But of course their was no way of avoiding the traffic when I ended up on some school runs myself. Most seemed to be the poor kids who were moving up from junior to senior, or as they seem to call themselves now high school. These poor nervous kids stick out a mile, freshly scrubbed and looking uncomfortable in their brand new school uniforms. I always feel sorry for them; after all it's a big step to go from being one of the bigger kids in the junior playground, to being just a tiddler surrounded by sharks. But the happy smiling mothers seemed to waste no time in making the most of their renewed freedom. Lots of runs to the shops, and I haven't seen the queue for taxis outside the bingo halls as big for months.

Monday, September 3

Not Welcome

Traffic wardens, no matter whether you love or loathe them you must admit at the end of the day they do a necessary job. This is easily proved if you take a look round the town centre on a Sunday. Especially round the back of Barrow's Portland Walk down the Preston St area. Drivers know that local traffic wardens don't work on the Sunday and take full advantage of it. But some of the careless obstructive parking has to be seen to be believed. Many a time I have been unable to drive down to the Preston St club to pick up a fare, all because of some avid Sunday shopper dumping their car in the middle of the road to save walking an extra two or three yards.
But a parking attendant at one of our local superstores solved the mystery of why no taxis hang around on the Tesco car park for me. I had just dropped of at the store and knew that I would be given a fresh job within minutes. The car park was fairly empty and so I pulled into a nearby space to wait. Within thirty seconds the parking attendant who it seems works for a separate company, but have the contract to control the car park, was over. Now it's pretty obvious by the door signs and plates that I was in a taxi. And it's even more obvious that I was working by the fact that I was sat in the taxi having just dropped of at the store. I was therefore surprised when he entered my number into his machine. Seeing me watching him he walked up to me and informed me that he had taken my number, I shrugged and said "OK no problem but why." He gleefully told me that "if he spotted me again, anywhere on his car park within the next five hours he would give me a ticket." Charming eh! But strangely the same firm operate the rival Morrison's supermarket and taxis are welcome there. And I should think so too after all we are a vital service to their customers.

Sunday, September 2

Smarten Up

I'm wondering how long it is before Barrow council follows the example of Blackpool's public protection committee. Firstly they are proposing introducing an age limit for vehicles of ten years, they say this is to cut down on harmful emissions and so improve air quality.
But it's the proposals for a stricter dress code that interest me, especially when looking round at some of our local drivers whose workgear consists of everything that they are talking about banning. The proposals are to ban "T-shirts bearing offensive logos, football shirts and baseball caps"drivers will be able to wear shorts as long as they are tailored.
Well if they introduce those rules around here I can see a lot of local drivers having to buy a complete new wardrobe. The charity shops will be full of XXL size three quarter pants and slightly gravy stained football tops.
But where they go too far is the silly idea of compulsory
display of "How am I driving?" signage and a telephone hotline. Thats just asking for every crank and stresshead driver to call and let off steam every time a cab stops to pick up a fare in the road. Take for instance the overwrought driver who actually stopped and got out of his car today and pointed down at the double yellow lines under my cab. Yes we all know they mean no parking, but if he checked the highway code he would find it also says "except for the loading and alighting of passengers." Still I suppose it would keep yet another well salaried council official busy answering the phone.
Blackpool council are to vote on introducing these rules in the next week, and if it is passed some drivers are talking about strike action.

Saturday, September 1

Golden Showers

The last two or three days have seen a big surge of visitors to this site. I decided to follow the link that is dragging hundreds of new visitors from all over the world here. Well ohh! my god when I clicked on the back link it turns out that someone posted a link on a strange message board. It seems that these visitors take more than a passing interest in panty wetting. Well I suppose it takes all sorts, whatever floats your boat, but myself I find it all a bit weird. Even more so, when I reread the post from last April that seems to be such a turn on for them. I for the life of me just can't see what the attraction is check it out here. Oh by the way the title "Golden Showers" is a deliberate ploy to see if attracts any more strange fish.

Sat-Nav Sign

'Don't trust sat-nav', new signs warn
A council has put up a sign warning lorry drivers to ignore their satellite navigation systems after faulty sat-nav directions caused traffic chaos.
Vale of Glamorgan Council in South Wales is the first in the UK to use visual signs warning drivers not to believe sat-nav advice after once peaceful villages were reduced to bedlam when heavy-goods lorries got stuck in tiny country lanes.
Now a sign aimed largely at foreign drivers has been put up on the outskirts of the village of St Hilary.
"The proliferation of satellite navigation aids used in heavy goods vehicles, and their over-reliance, especially by overseas drivers, has presented itself as a problem within the Vale of Glamorgan," a spokesman for the council's highways department said.
They are continuing with their journey only to find, after travelling some distance, they cannot proceed any further.
"Manoeuvring becomes difficult and the vehicle eventually blocks the road for a significant period of time."
In a bid to overcome the problem, a county engineer designed a pictorial sign aimed at foreign lorry drivers.
The sign was later approved by the Welsh Assembly and has now been put up outside the village for a trial period.
"There have been numerous situations where HGVs have become lost and stuck in the village of St Hilary, even though there are signs at the junction of the A48 informing such drivers that the route is unsuitable.
"If the signs prove successful following the trial period, then they will be used at other locations throughout Wales."