I've got four wonderful adult children. They have grown into fantastic citizens, all with excellent jobs, and dare I say it, two of them are Senior Civil Servants. One son one daughter, and one of them extremely senior. My wife and myself are very proud of them. They are fully aware of my opinion on Senior Civil Servants, and have promised not to be like the ones I dislike.
Both of my sons came down to see me earlier this week, and know only too well, that my favourite meal of all.......is breakfast. "We've come down to take you to an award winning special breakfast place Pops, and if you don't see a breakfast that you like in this gaff, then your'e just being a Diva !."
We jump into my youngest sons brand new Range Rover, and I'm sitting in the back being chauffeured to breakfast as if I were Michael Jackson.
We arrived at this cafe supremo joint and I could immediately see that this was no ordinary greasy spoon. The car park was rammed, and you had to book as well for Christ sake !
We were shown to our table and asked to choose from this massive overhead breakfast menu. It was monolithic. A huge menu.
I'm looking down the Doomsday book of lorry drivers Utopia which started at "A", and eventually tailed off to "X" or something I think. The thing was, it was a selection of breakfasts that were set. So if you asked for Breakfast "S", you got EXACTLY what was on the Breakfast "S" menu. Nothing more, nothing less. Aware that my apparent Diva persona was being tested by my two strapping sons, I studied the breakfast menu from heaven with surgical precision. Just when I thought I had the perfect breakfast, there was something on the list that I didn't like or would rather have swapped. I looked again, and the same thing happened. I took another look.
Just when I thought I had cracked it, I was gutted to see it was backed up with chips or fresh tomatoes instead of tinned. I found one with tinned tomatoes, no chips, but mushrooms, which was great, but then they ruined it with beans. Back to square one. As many choices as there were, and despite the huge range, they just didn't have the perfect one. They had everything I liked.............but not in the set choice that they had set out.
The young lady came to our table to take our order. My two boy's requested their choices. One had the "H" breakfast, the other had the "D" option. As she asked for my order, I said " I'd like the "M" breakfast please, but do you think you could possibly swap the bacon for a sausage?"
Mate, you would have thought that I had just asked the girl what sort of underwear she had on !!
Do you know when you're watching a murder movie or a horror film and just before the murderer plunges the blade into the victim's head they slow the film speed down to concentrate on the assailant's mad eyes ? That look of hatred, wrath, imminent execution and blood lust ? Well, that is how the waitress's contorted face looked like. Not only that, the two nearest tables heard my request and must have been regulars, because their jaws stopped in the position they were last in as they gazed in amazement at first me and then the waitress. It was as though I had just told her that I was the abusive father that abandoned her at six hours old, hitting her mother with a hot seedy loaf from the oven and pissing over the cat before I left ! My two boys just stared at the menu and denied all eye contact with me. Jesus!
The thing is, I know what I like. I know what is best for my belly, and I know what pleases me. All of the breakfast's were good of course, but even with that vast choice, there was either something on the plate that I didn't like, or didn't want and would rather have changed for something else. I honestly wasn't being a diva. I just knew what I wanted.
As you can imagine, I didn't want to embarrass my sons further or risk an axe sticking from the side of my head on the way out, so just put up with the nearest version they had for my liking, and enjoyed it very much. I'm not a great fan of chips with my breakfast, but ate them even if I would rather of had mushrooms.
I have a great interest in human psychology. The way in which people's brains work gives me never ending curiosity. I often resort to studying my own to give my interest a kick start. So what I had just experienced in the Breakfast Cafe, made me think of something in particular. Something more closer to my heart, than the cholesterol from the bacon!
In our precarious professional positions of London Cab Drivers, and by virtue of the nature of the beast, Trade Representation is important. You never know what's around the corner and a jumped red light, awkward fare paying passenger or the wrath of a Compliance Officer, could lead any of us seeking the professional assistance of support, via our trade organisation or body.
Many of our colleagues will know that although I have been a member of every trade org out there, I have been a member of nothing for some time now. Make no bones about it, I am not advocating this risky decision at all, indeed, I think it is rather hazardous, and potentially suicidal.
But the reason I have found myself in this unenviable position, is extremely similar to the position I found myself in the cafe. There are ample trade orgs out there offering professional representation, but none of them with EXACTLY what I want. Some have most of what I want, some have a little of what I want, and one in particular has nothing that I want. But that is not to say I am not willing to try joining one. The thing is though I want to have a good, sound representation, if I do so.
By nature, I am a very pro-active union member. I get involved in stuff. I want to be on the front line. I enjoy the skirmish with the bad guys and would like to think that I am a valued member. On the same token though, I expect a lot in return. The biggest flaw in my London Cab Trade career though is, that I am really lacking in patience, and personal experience in democracy. I understand the hurdles and problems in the way of union matters of course, but when the red flag is hoisted and we are in imminent danger of attack, then a formidable challenge is the very least I would expect our lot to deploy. And I don't just expect to sit back and expect to have success brought to me either.
I don't mind rolling my sleeves up. In fact, I enjoy it. The main thing for me though....is immediate, viable member protection. I know deployments or challenges have to be agreed and spoken about, but when they start drifting into weeks and weeks of dialogue, meetings, votes and democracy whilst our trousers are being pulled down round our ankles, I get the right hump.
A few years ago, I found myself in some piping hot water by my own stupidity, and learnt a very valuable lesson. It was at the time that John Mason had briefed a team of Compliance Officers and sent them on to the streets to do their "work". I parked up in St Martins Lane one night and watched them. At the time, I was a member of the London Taxi Drivers Forum and aired my views with absolutely no doubt as to what I thought.
I told them clearly that they were totally useless, inept, unqualified and disgraceful. With my professional experience I was confident that I could have done better, and challenged Mason's team and offered the Police Operational Commander my target rate success history as better than anything they had out there.. On my own back, I phoned Helen Chapman and told her about my concern. To give her her due, she agreed to meet me. For my own benefit, I was accompanied by a very hard punching trade stalwart of us all, who is working towards our betterment even as I type. I trusted this man with my life and still do. He is a credit to our cab trade. I didn't want to turn up at the meeting alone for many reasons, so arranged the meeting for the two of us to go.
So me and him meet up at the arranged venue, and Helen Chapman duly arrived.
During all the time we were there, and to give her due, Helen answered our questions with courtesy, honesty and professionalism and took my concerns back to the Operational Police Unit. I told Helen that I thought I could do a better job, so she informed the Police Commander responsible, and I was duly invited to go out with the team, to see what they did, and how I thought I could demonstrate that I knew better.
I looked forward to this quest and knew I had a fair argument. AND THEN IT HIT THE FAN !!! BIG STYLE !!!
I had our Trade Orgs coming back to me asking who the hell did I think I was. Who gave me the right to speak for the trade. What right did I have in putting myself up for such a brief, and even daring to approach Helen Chapman to discuss anything at all at any time !
I had drivers saying that I didn't speak for them and keep my big nose and big mouth out of it. I was accused of being a busy body nobody and to wind my neck in.
I thought about it for a while and had to admit....................they were right !
I could see their point clearly, and to be honest, was surprised how naive I was thinking it would go well at all. This was a Trade Org brief out and out, no question, and I had trod on their toes with undue and probably uncalled for disrespect.
I did make a full and immediate apology to the orgs and my mates, and cancelled the imminent police meeting.
I had learned a huge lesson that day. You will have known my writings to often criticise my own misunderstanding of democracy ? Well this was a good example of how I fell foul. In the cab trade it is seen as glory hunting, in the army it is seen as good example. I wasn't use to the democratic voting way, only the military way but had to learn the union way fast. In the army I was a good example, in the cab trade I was a busy body. I took it on the chin, considered myself fair game and had to adapt overnight. My overenthusiastic wings had been clipped.
Last night, through Taxi Leaks, I replied to a post concerning our great ally and friend, Dave Davies. At the end of his reply, he offered to meet me and/or the remainder of the Trade Orgs to discuss launching a Trade Public Inquiry. I have my reservations about a Public Inquiry for reasons already stated. However, I would be more than happy to put any of my influence or assistance in one, if that is what the trade wants and feels would save us. However, and also for reasons already stated, I am unable to meet Dave Davies to talk about it with him. As much as I would love to, and as much as I would have done it like a shot in years gone by, I have no right to, so won't.
My position in our great trade at present then, is one that has been privileged to me by the respected platform of Taxi Leaks and our staunch friend and Editor, Jim Thomas. And that is a position as a Trade Scribe, nothing more, nothing less. My position in our trade is to try to inspire my colleagues in arms to fight, unite and take custody of the world famous London Cab Trade through the Uber and TFL prolific attack, and out the other side to new pastures. I have no Union or Org rights nor blessing, and can only attempt to do that by my writings, previous professional skills and knowledge, camaraderie and moral support. I will of course, do everything that my small but worthwhile brief permits. You can trust me, and rely on me in full.
However, we don't need me to write about the blindingly obvious. Our trade is under persistent and heavy attack from every direction. A Public Inquiry may very well be just what the trade needs to save it. Dave Davies is no mug. He is a businessman, investor and our friend. He has offered to meet us. Is anyone going to ring him ? Has anyone already rang him ? Is there any possibility of launching an Inquiry real soon ? Is our trade about to go under or will it be saved ? I can only report what I see is happening folks, I am only a scribe. Surely something is going to be announced soon ? Isn't it ?
Here I go again, wanting it all at once ! That trade clock is ticking it's little cobblers out right now. What are we going to do ? Put our Christmas trees up and forget all about it ? I shall be supporting our UCG members out there in the New Year, but how much unity can they rely on from the rest of us ? We shall see.
And by the way..................................Can I have chips this time ?
Be lucky all.