Saturday, August 10, 2013

What made London Olympics so great? It was our taxis

What made last year’s London Olympics so successful?
Was it
  • The athletes in their prime?
  • The crowds?
  • The national pride?
No chance. 

It was the capital’s iconic black cabs, according to the Chinese company that now makes them.



Even though LOCOG, TfL, Seb Coe, Peter Hendy, Leon Daniels and Boris Johnson all decided to sideline the London Taxi trade by banning us from the Olympic Lanes, hiding our ranks away from the crowds at Olympic venues and used substandard transport for athletes and officials......visiting dignitaries were still impressed at the fantastic service they received from the best Taxi service in the world.

When the Mayor of Nanjing visited London during the Games with Chinese officials, he was so impressed with the taxis that he wanted them on the streets of his city when it hosts the Youth Olympic Games next year.

“The taxis gave them a very good impression, not just the product but also the service,” said James Lin, the general manager of the Shanghai London Taxi Company, which is owned by Geely.

“They thought they could copy the successful example of London for their city. They think our product could help them hold a successful Games.”

Geely has now agreed an 80m yuan (£8.4m) deal with Nanjing, home to 7m people, for 500 cabs.
It is the largest Chinese taxi order signed by Geely since it bought British company Manganese Bronze out of bankruptcy last year. That move secured 107 jobs at Manganese, which still makes the black cabs at its headquarters in Coventry.

“In the past we just focused on the UK market,” said Mr Lin. “After the Geely takeover, we did not just focus on traditional areas but also the China market and the global market.”

The Nanjing cabs will be made in Shanghai but Geely often flies in engineers from the UK to oversee large orders in order to protect the essence of the brand.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Ex Boxer 72, Disarms Burglar 23, Giving him Black Eye And Swollen Lip.



A burglar who broke into a house and threatened a pensioner with a knife got more than he bargained for when the victim turned out to be a retired boxer who left him bruised and bleeding.

Frank Corti, 72, who served with the Royal Engineers in North Africa from 1956-58, dodged the knife and punched Gregory McCalium, 23, twice in the face, giving him a black eye and a swollen lip. He then restrained the attacker until police arrived.

McCalium, a barman, was given a four-and-a-half year prison sentence at Oxford Crown Court on Monday for aggravated burglary and was told by the judge he had "got what he deserved".





GetTaxi launches in New York, will have to prove its weight in cheap reliable taxis

Ever since the New York State Supreme Court ruled that taxi-hailing apps were indeed legal, New York is teeming with upstart taxi-hailing apps. There’s Uber, Hailo, Taxi Magic to just name a few. Well, now there’s a new one! Praise be! Israel-based GetTaxi today has officially launched in New York, and is also announcing a $12 million Series C round of funding led by Kreos Capital.

  


GetTaxi is a ride ordering app. Joining the ranks of Uber and Hailo, it provides an app for hailing a car for when you don’t want to go outside and raise your hand for an hour. It differs from Hailo in that it doesn’t hail official yellow cabs but its own black cars it calls “G-Cars.” It differs from Uber in its claim that it will be more affordable and widespread. (It also affords users and drivers alike to make G-spot jokes, but I digress.) In addition, it caters to corporate customers, with more than 1,500 to date around the world, along with a customer loyalty program that will deliver discounts to frequent users (and cute monikers for loyal customers like ‘newbie,’ rookie,’ ‘pro,’ and the ever-coveted ‘g-master’). 

Launched in Israel in 2010, GetTaxi is available in 4 countries and 20 cities around the world. It teams up with already established fleets of cars in each city that don’t have mobile hailing systems, and vets them to make sure each service and driver is licensed and insured to GetTaxi’s (supposedly rigorous) standards.

CEO Jing Herman says New York is the perfect place for GetTaxi. Right now there are about 13,000 yellow cabs in New York and, during peak times it’s often damn near impossible to hail a cab. New York natives call this the “bewitching hour,” when one 12-hour shift is going off duty and a new shift is starting, The result is a lot of Off Duty lights.

According to data just released, yellow taxi-hailing apps aren’t making things any better, with a 17 percent success rate of actually acquiring a taxi.

Herman believes the way to make a successful taxi app in New York (or for any major city, for that matter), is to harness the excess of black cars, that is, private limo services that generally drive big black sedans. According to Herman, there are currently 40,000 black cars out there.

She points to GetTaxi’s programs in Moscow, London, and Tel Aviv (just to name a few) as proof that GetTaxi has what it takes to make it in a tough town like New York. She’s not afraid to boast either: “We are definitely going to take over the market,” she told me. 

Oh really? Despite the company’s financial backing I wonder how GetTaxi will rise above the rest. Now that taxi apps are officially legal in the city, the taxi app market is already getting jam-packed. The only real way to make some headway is to be the absolute, definitive cheapest and most reliable taxi company out there. The fact that it is connecting already working black car fleets with mobile technology gives it a chance, but no guarantees.

In addition, GetTaxi has to confront the threat of gypsy cabs, one of those gambles you take late at night when you’re in a random part of Brooklyn, drunk, and just want to get home. Sometimes the price is right; sometimes they gouge you. Herman told me GetTaxi is a better choice because it’s legal. Unregulated gypsy cabs are not.

Then again, cheapskates like me are not GetTaxi’s target user. Corporate types with expense accounts are.

There are plenty of them around, so GetTaxi certainly has a chance.

As for me, there’s always the subway.

         

Source: PandoDaily.





Licensed Taxi Drivers being denied their right to work, under new rules.

We've just got over a nightmare weekend where the Taxi trade and many other businesses found London closed. Emergency vehicles couldn't get to patients, people couldn't get to elderly relatives to check if they had eaten or were ok and farmers in Surrey complained they couldn't get about to feed live stock.
Now we are hearing that drivers are regularly being stopped from working, because of hold ups getting CRB checks returned.

Have you had a problem renewing your ‘Bill’ this year?


It has been bought to our attention that Licensed Taxi Drivers are being denied their right to work.
One driver filled in his application form on the 6th of June, had it checked at the Post Office and returned it. When the licence expired on the 23rd July 2013 he contacted LTPH for a temporary licence but was told he couldn't work, until the level 4 Police CRB check has been processed. 

He was informed that no more temporary licences are being issued under new government order and in fact clearance didn't arrive till the 6th August.

Again we hear the same excuse "it's not our fraught, there's nothing we can do".
It appears that a number of drivers have found themselves in this position.

This type of consistent poor performance is unacceptable from our licensing authority. 
The solution is really quite simple, LTPH need to send out renewal packs earlier, giving plenty of time to accommodate any delays that might occur with the agency involved.

Surely it is the management's responsibility to make sure the process they use to renew bills is as efficient as possible. If the people employed to do this fail, then they need to be replaced, as it is costing hard working drivers their livelihoods and that's just not acceptable. 

Make sure you belong to a reliable union or representative org.
It's at times like this, that it's imperative you belong to a good trade org, who will take up the issue with LTPH on your behalf. 

It is not however, a good idea to carry on working with an expired license, as you could be prosecuted for being unlicensed and lose your bill completely.

If you have to stop working because of this poor performance from the agencies involved, you may have an extremely good case for compensation.

There's is an old saying that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Obviously no one at TfL or LTPH have heard that one.





Thursday, August 08, 2013

Cab drivers say Maidenhead council colours make taxis look like 'dustbin cars

Hackney carriage taxi drivers are now required to brand their vehicles in Royal Borough colours under new council guidelines.



Drivers must use a white vehicle, with a purple boot and bonnet, and place a borough logo on the side when they change their transportation.

The move, implemented by the council's licensing panel in April, was made to distinguish the taxis from private hire and dangerous unlicensed vehicles - but one driver says it makes them look like 'dustbin cars.'

Taxi driver Mohammed Sulaman said: "It's making life hard for us.

"The logo is the same as the ones on the dustbin cars. We are providing a service and our customers are people, not rubbish."

Cllr Carwyn Cox (Con, Hurley and Walthams), a member of the licensing panel, responded by stating the new-look cars were smart and public safety should take precedence following a string of recent attacks involving unlicensed vehicles posing as taxis.

Source: Maidenhead advertiser.

Boris Bike Cyclist, Injured In Collision With Car In Bethnal Green.

A 32-year-old cyclist was taken to hospital after a collision with a car yesterday afternoon.


Paramedics and police were called to Bethnal Green Road at around 1.15pm after the collision between the cyclist, who was riding a Boris Bike, and a Vauxhall Vectra.

The London Ambulance Service confirmed the man was taken to the Royal London Hospital following the incident, near the junction with Wilmot Street.

He was conscious and breathing, and received treatment for chest and abdominal injuries.





Old Etonian ex-City stockbroker thinks he's a Taxi Mogul...ha ha.

 

Nicholas Monteith, 51, bought minicab company Mornington Cars in 2008 as a business venture alongside his 25-year career as a Japanese equities salesman.

But in 2009, Mr Monteith found himself jobless after a widespread City cull following the global economic crash.

He soon took on full-time duties at the taxi company, (minicab firm) based in Millbrook Place, Mornington Crescent - manning the company telephone lines and personally delivering leaflets to businesses across Camden.

Since taking ownership of the business, Mr Monteith has increased the firm’s fleet of cabs (no, not cabs, that's not allowed, they're minicabs) from 12 to 35 and is determined to continue the expansion up to 100 cabs (again, not cabs, minicabs) or more.

Reflecting on his transition from high finance to mini cabs (nearly right, but it's minicabs), Mr Monteith said: “Running a taxi firm (once again it's not a taxi firm, it's a minicab firm) is less stressful than working in the City, you don’t have the constant pressure on you.

“But I do miss the City and I do want to get back in. I know it’s going through a bad patch at the moment and there’s no hiring so while it goes through this patch, I’m happy growing my taxi firm.” (ITS NOT A TAXI FIRM)

Editorial Comment

Hope before you go back to the city you learn the difference between Japanese equities and Chinese take-a-ways.

Surely as a licensed operator and before he got his licence from LTPH, someone would have explained to him the terms and conditions of the private hire act 1998.

Parliament took a lot of trouble ensuring that the public would be protected from misuse of the Term Taxi, Cab and their plurals. Therefore it was included into the Parliamentary legislation to stop the public being deceived by unscrupulous persons.

Now it seems TfL and LTPH are allowing operators to go against Parliament's wishes. The last person in this country to go against Parliament, was Charles 1st and they chopped his head off.

Now, no one's asking for anyone to be decapitated, but someone needs to point out to Peter Hendy, Leon Daniels and Helen Chapman, their responsibility to uphold Parliamentary legislation.

Especially as Peter Hendy is now Sir Peter.

We like what Chris the cabby had to say about the article in the Ham and High..



Source http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/old_etonian_ex_city_stockbroker_has_ambitious_plans_as_camden_taxi_mogul_1_2322565

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Incompetent And Not Fit For Service....Part 2, Westminster Parking Services, NSL.

There seems to be a policy of noncompliance under the new administration of interim General Manager Helen Chapman. We have had reports from many drivers, that complaints to LTPH  are not receiving replies. 

As we have had no response from either TfL of LTPH, over the problem with minicabs they license, illegally plying for hire and forming an illegal rank in the bus lane at the junction of Regent Street by Swallow Street's Archway causing congestion, one of our researchers decided to write to a Ward Councillor Glenys Roberts.

The Councillor refreshingly, replied almost by return of post.

Below is the reply from Councillor Roberts.



Another of Taxi Leaks researchers sent off a number of freedom of information requests, to find out how many parking tickets have been issued to cars parked in Regent Street between the hours of 22:00 and 05:00. The answer we received back was truly astonishing.

Available data shows, in the 5 years ending in December 2012, there has been a massive reduction in PCNs issued in the whole of the Regent Street area; 1721 in 2007, down to 381 in 2012.

In sector F3 Regent Street, 11 tickets were issued in 2012, that's less than 1 a month, at a time (22:00-05:00) in an area that is constantly packed with licensed PHVs illegally plying for hire in a bus lane, every night of the week.

The enforcement camera at the junction of Vigo and Regent has also recently been removed and so far, there are no plans to reinstall.

Amazingly, the Fifty yards of the actual Swallow Street from Piccadilly are kept clear. 
In the 5 years to 2012, 416 tickets were issued in this small street. This has insured the minicab touts do not illegal park in Swallow Street.




So why are the council wardens unable to keep the touts away from the Regent Street side of the Swallow Street Arch?

NSL have stated that their wardens have been victimised and violently attacked at this location and therefore had been instructed not to issue PCNs at this location, unless accompanied by police officers. 

It Seemed strange to us that the minicab touts inside Swallow street had not attacked the wardens, just the ones out in Regent Street...

We have now received evidence in the form of FOI requests that would suggest frequency of attacks at this location are no higher than any other area, currently being patrolled by NSL wardens. These new FOI statistics (which NSL were very reluctant to part with) cover other boroughs such as  Camden and Fulham and Hammersmith.

Recently, on the BBC we saw a program that showed the corruption (and not for the first time) that is occurring on a daily basis in the area, with wardens from NSL accepting bribes from drivers. 


Our team has written to Westminster Parking Services on many occasions and they have been made completely aware of the situation. But again like TfL, LTPH and the Met Police, they choose to ignore and do nothing.

Amazingly, in other parts of London NSL operated a "clandestine quota system" to issue tickets to motorists in a "predatory and dishonest" way, (a judge found in January this year).

A ruling seen by BBC London details how NSL, working for Kensington and Chelsea Council, set its wardens a minimum target of 10 tickets a working shift. The quotas came to light after one traffic warden, Hakim Berkani, lost his job in February 2011 and took NSL to court.

With all the controversy over corruption allegations, TfL still chose NSL to take over the licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicle from SGS. 

One or two emails are not enough to get the wheels of action moving. If enough drivers take the time to email Westminster councillors, eventually they will sit up and take note and hopefully get NSL wardens to do the job they are paid to do, instead of giving the area and the illegal touts, a wide berth. 

Look out for our campaign later this month, to bring this situation into the spotlight of the councillors, London Assembly Members and MPs. 
We will shortly be publishing email addresses for all relevant councillors, London Assembly Members and MPs for the area covering Regent and Swallow.
We will also be giving details of local and national news papers.

It's time this situation was bought to conclusion as its been ignored and allowed by TfLTPH, Westminster City Council, their parking agents NSL and the Metropolitan Police, for far too long. 

EDITORIAL COMMENT:
But it's not just Westminster City Council that is a problem.
It seems with every aspect of the administration of Taxis and Private Hire, there is corruption and malpractice of some sort.
We've seen:
     * the issuing of PH roundels to un-inspected vehicles at SGS
     * Corrupt staff at Palestra, fraudulently taking cash from drivers
     * LTPH inability to enforce against illegally plying for hire 
     *Harassment of Taxi drivers while PH drivers are left alone
     *Unlawful issuing of satellite office licence variations
     *The Director of LTPH moved on the whim of PH operators

This is just the tip of the iceberg, just the bits we know of. 
We believe much more is going on behind the scenes and there needs to be a immediate investigation of LTPH and a complete overhaul of the present incompetent administration.



Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Credit And Debit Cards Contact Payment Systems At Risk To Major Fraud...by Jim Thomas.

A few years ago, I read a story about a new system of touch cards that would speed up shopping for customers wishing to purchase small items, cigarettes and news papers. I have even seen articles in the Taxi trade media that tell of trials for touch cards on small jouneys under £10. The article made reference to credit and debit cards containing RFID chips that were about to be issued by some banks. Now these cards are being issued by most high street banks but without advising customers of the pit falls.


The article in Wired Magazine, told of a computer programmer who had found a way to read people's card detail by just being in close proximity to the card holder. He had an extremely powerful touch pad reader in a small pouch, connected to a smart phone which he was using to send the data via blue tooth to an accomplice's lap top in the same area.

The team were targeting queues of customers waiting to pay for items in shopping centres as most people hold the goods and card in their hands ready to pay. The reader picks up the weak signal from the RF chip across a distance of just a few inches.The details were then uploaded onto blank Oyster-cards which had been prepared earlier. A third perpetrator would them start making multiple small purchases. Not quite the crime of the century but could prove to be very annoying to victims who have no idea what's going on until their credit card bill arrives. Some banks no longer send paper statements and it would be up to the victim to spot this on their online accounts.

The Oyster-card, which has just celibrated a decade in public use, uses an embedded RFID chip and touch pad system as do many hotel key cards. There has always been a market for old hotel key cards as many hotels add the customers bank details to the card when they register for a room. Old Key cards are sometimes sold on by corrupt hotel staff.

You should never give back your key card when you sign out and make sure you destroy the card completely, just to be on the safe side.

Next we have the airport tag which operates on basically the same system, albeit with an RFID chip that has a much stronger signal.

   * Can't be cracked as you have to purchase credits?
   * Details have to match data base before you are allowed on the terminals?

Any computer system can be hacked, little program's can be added and back doors left open. Many programmers add secret back doors to program's incase they need access at later dates when the systems are up and running and locked down. If you can make contact with a mainframe computer system through WiFi eventually it can be hacked. With regards to Heathrow, it's just a matter of time.

At present the airport scenario is fiction...but how long did it take for the Wired magazine article fiction to become fact...just a few months.

Sounds unbelievable, but watch the video below and see just how easy this really is.


Monday, August 05, 2013

Shape Of Things To Come?

Cabbies and private hire drivers are at loggerheads over whether Shipley railway station should have a hackney carriage rank.



Mehrban Khan, a member of the Bradford Hackney Carriage Association, thinks the facility would benefit disabled passengers – saying that 95 per cent of the districts hackney cabs are wheelchair-friendly.

But manager of Minicab firm AA Shipley, Craig Brook, which has a contract to provide a service at the station, said his company was more than capable of providing wheelchair access to customers.

In April 2012 Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Panel instructed officers to look into setting up a hackney carriage taxi stand at the station. Now, Mr Khan is questioning why it has not happened.
His frustration is shared by the deputy leader of Bradford Council Imran Hussain, who blamed Network Rail for the delay.

Coun Hussain said: “We have been pursuing Northern Rail to get taxi ranks at Shipley and Keighley stations for the past two years. The key issue for me is the gross unfairness for disabled people who are not able to access taxis at these stations. We are disappointed with the action from Northern Rail and will continue to lobby them about this issue.”

Mr Khan added: “Quite a lot of trains come through Shipley. People change there for Bradford, Bingley and Keighley and at the moment people have to phone for a taxi. We can be there all the time. It would be better for disabled people if they had that,” he said.
 
Mr Brook insists that disabled access is not an issue and that his drivers get to customers within about 20 seconds of being called from a free-phone line at the station. He said a hackney carriage rank would mean his drivers could not pick-up there, as private taxis are not allowed to drive into cab ranks.
“It would cause traffic chaos,” he said.

“We have four minibuses that have been made wheelchair accessible from our company alone and I know there’s a couple more.
“We’ve regular customers that use us to transport wheelchairs. It’s not a call we get often though just out of the blue.”

Mark Nicholson, the general manager of Disability Advice Bradford, which is based in Dockfield Road, Shipley, said a hackney carriage rank would be beneficial for all passengers, but that there was no issue with disabled people using private hire vehicles.

“Some of our clients that come to see us on Dockfield Road, do have to call for a taxi from the station, so to have any form of rank there for anyone – disabled, the elderly or otherwise, from a convenience point of view would be of great benefit,” he said.

He added that the quality of disability access across minicab firms throughout Bradford was extremely high.
Network Rail did not provide a comment.

Incompetent And Poor Service....Part 1, LTPH

It has been bought to our attention that some drivers are having difficulty, getting answers to serious complaints from LTPH. There appears to be a new policy of non-compliance. Even the interim General Manager of LTPH, Helen Chapman, is allegedly refusing to answer complaints directly. 

Drivers are complaining they have been ignored for some time and in one case, Ms Chapman is alleged to have hung up on a concerned driver, who phoned her directly about the misuse of a Taxi rank.

This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable from a public authority, which has a duty of care to be fair, unbiassed, open and transparent. After all, we are not dealing with a secret society or negotiating with a private company. London's Taxi drivers are treated like the enemy by TfL, who have inflicted a "divide and conquer" policy over the trade in general, which appears to have neutralised our largest representative group.

While our trade is enforced and restricted beyond belief, Private Hire are left quite free to run a muck.

LTPH have known about the counterfeit licences, IDs and metal badges for over two years and yet after many thousands of badge and bill inspections, they have still only managed to gain one successful prosecution.

Their record is atrocious.
Over the last couple of years we have seen;
   * The issue of licences to PH companies in contravention of TfL policy (just guidelines we are now told).
   * The issue of licences to PH companies in liquidation (just guidelines again). 
   * PH roundels issued without vehicles being inspected (John Mason tried to justify this corrupt action, saying the two officers from SGS were just doing a favour for a friend and no money changed hands)
   * And licence renewals sold over the counter for cash.

As a licensed trade, we have to abide by prima-legislation, case-law and Parliamentary acts which are enforced rigorously.

Private hire have a series of guidelines which when contravened, get no more than a shrug of the shoulders, from an incompetent licensing authority that many feel are not fit for service.

In future, Taxi Leaks would advise drivers, not to bother complaining to either LTPH or TfL, but instead send complaints direct to MPs and London Assembly members. 

Earlier this year, we contacted one of our teams MP and have now received a reply from Helen Chapman, albeit with the same biased and propaganda type answers which were much favoured by her predecessor John Mason over the last four years...but at least we managed to finally get an answer.

Unfortunately the news wasn't good.
If you thought you had nothing to worry about with the plethora of new online PH apps, then I'm afraid you will have to think again.

It seems that all PH have to do, to illegally advertise their services as a Taxi service, is to form a third party company which then advertises their services as a Taxi or Cab service. 
They then transfer the call to a PH company who actually take the booking. The third party company is not covered under the normal restrictions of the Private Hire Act, as they do not require a TfL lincence. 

When the penny drops, expect to see PH companies advertising everywhere as Taxi Services and referring to their vehicles as Taxis and Cabs.

We would like to take this opportunity to point out:
Sir Peter Hendy, the Mayors commissioner for TfL, has always had the right under the Private Hire Act 1998, to change and make amendments. He could sort out his loop hole just as easily as he amended to London Cab Act to make ID badge display compulsory. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have the same appetite when it comes to his PH friends. We've all seen just how much influence Steve Wright has with TfL, as after one letter to Mayor Boris, he managed to get John Mason removed from his post.

Below is the letter received from one of our London MPs;




Later this week, we look at Westminster Parking Services and NSL.

EDITORIAL COMMENT:

I think it would be good to get a legal view on this at some point.

Helen Chapman says that marketing companies do not have to comply with the legal requirements for ads which include the words cab or taxi.

We believe they do.


From the PH Act 1998: Any person who issues, or causes to be issued, an advertisement which contravenes these provisions is guilty of an offence. 


Also, Private Hire Companies are required to comply to this law and if they are advertising through a third party then they have technically broken that law.


It would be no different if a Private Hire company had a self employed tout who stood outside a nightclub and took bookings on their behalf.


If TFL are saying that Private Hire companies are exempt if the booking is taken by a third party and then referred to them , then where do they draw the line?

 

Dave Davies.




Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Actions Of One London Licensed Taxi Driver, Can Bring Shame On The Whole Trade.

You never know who you have in the back of your cab as a passenger.
As we are seen by many to be "Best Taxi Service In The World", we should endeavour to be on our best behaviour at all times. 

Unfortunately, every barrel contains a few rotten apples and the case below is about one of the rottenest.

The passenger in this incident, just happened to be a world renowned author and journalist and as such, has published her story in the worlds media about how she was treated by a licensed Taxi driver, while on holiday in London. Fortunately, she also ran into a "Diamond Geezer" London Cabby in the same incident. 

Thank god for this second driver who unselfishly, pulled our reputation back out of the gutter.

Passenger J.A. Jance:
J.A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of both the J. P. Beaumont series and the Joanna Brady Series. She has written 40 novels and she has more than 10 million copies of her books in print. Visit her Web site: JAJance.com.


The Case of The London Cabby.

Yesterday I ventured out on a solo shopping trip in London. My goal was Harrod’s, of course. Is there anywhere else to shop when you’re a tourist in London?

I am one of those people who, once my gyros get tumbled, can manage to get horribly lost. As a consequence, rather than walking and possibly being run over in traffic for looking the wrong way in a cross walk, I opted to use a taxi.

In my experience, London cab drivers have always been unfailingly helpful, knowledgable, and cheerful. So I set our from our hotel, the Park Lane in Piccadilly, with a happy heart.

My goal on this venture was to buy a hairbrush–a man’s hairbrush. The one Bill has been using was given to him long ago by Lynn, his first wife. Since Bill and I have been married for going on thirty years now, you can understand that his old hairbrush was ready for a dignified retirement. The cab driver drove seemingly in circles but soon deposited me safely near the exact entrance I needed–the one that led into the men’s department. I wandered for some time without seeing a sign of a hairbrush. When I finally broke down and asked about gentleman’s hairbrushes, people looked at me as though I was speaking a foreign language which, it turns out, I was-American English. At last someone directed me to the “Gentleman’s Lounge” which was down a very long flight of marble stairs.

At the bottom I found myself in a men’s perfume emporium where, unsurprisingly, they had exactly what I needed–a lovely wooden handled, soft bristled brush. I whipped out my credit card, paid, and left. I had a request from someone to bring back a touristy thing that Harrod’s wouldn’t carry on a bet, so I found one of those and then made my way back to the cab rank where I had been dropped off to begin with. There was another rank of taxis on the far side of Harrod’s but that one was much busier. I liked the less busy one better, so back I went, carefully abiding by all the WALK and WAIT signs along the way. (American tourists have a way of looking the wrong way, stepping out in front of oncoming traffic, and thus turning themselves into international roadkill.)

At the taxi line, I walked up to the first available cab and said, “Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly.” To which the cabbie replied, “Never heard of it.”

Okay, I told myself. Believing my accent was at fault I repeated what I had said the first time, speaking very slowly and carefully. He shrugged and replied, “I don’t know where that is.”

So how am I going to get back to the hotel? I wondered. Walking was not an option. I had left the hotel in a taxi and had launched off without a map. So I moved along to the next taxi in line and repeated my request. The second cab driver pointed at the first cab and said, “What did he say?”

“He told me he didn’t know where it was.” So the second cab driver, Cabbie # 2, got out of his vehicle, led me back to Cab # 1, opened the door, put me inside, and said, “Park Lane Hotel. Piccadilly.”

And then all hell broke lose. Cab # 1, with me inside, pulled away from the curb, drove half a block, and then stopped in traffic. Whereupon both cab drivers, #1 and # 2, bailed from their respective vehicles and proceeded to have a screaming match in the middle of the street, with traffic building up behind us, horns honking, and with bystanders staring from the sidewalk. There were threats of pulling licenses. There were bad words. There were single finger salutes.

For a while, I sat there, thinking, “It’ll be a cold day in hell before this driver gets a tip.” Finally I bailed. I got out of Cab # 1, got into Cab #2, and with Cabbie #1 still yelling invectives in our wake, we came to the Park Lane Piccadilly where the concierge explained that the first cab driver claimed ignorance because it was “too short a trip.”

By the way, the second cab driver did get a nice tip, Bill got his hair brush, and I was glad to be back in the hotel.

Those of you who read my books and know how my mind works are probably thinking, “Oops. Time for a London Cabbie to show up in one of her books.” Too late. It turns out it’s already there because I already wrote it. 

The Case of the London Cabbie is a novella that came out years ago. In it you’ll find some characters who show up much later in some of my Ali Reynolds books. If you’re interested, go to the J.A. Jance Casebook at ipulpfiction.com.

Oh, and did I mention? 
We’ve had fun on this trip, but I’m glad to be coming home. 


Source: Seattle PI