The Failing Ship
Wednesday March 17th 2010, 3:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My cab is now falling apart
It is going through a relentless repair routine
Every day off is bookended by visits to the garage

The odd thing is
It all seemed to slip
The day that the owner told me he had just finished the payments on it
He appeared to almost sigh in relief
And his eyes were away… waltzing with profit
From a free taxi cab

But there must be some extra-dimensional taxi law
That states…no taxi is ever free
You can turn and turn
But you cannot stand and reap

One of the most frustrating aspects for me
As the person who drives it
Is the gross incompetence and slackness
That pervades right through the services around taxi driving
The coachbuilders
They are on a different planet
It must be a much larger one
That revolves longer and slower
It is rare that they answer the phone
So you have to leave a message

I left several messages about the jammed step on the nearside
It was jammed in for three weeks
Then it popped out
And was jammed out for nearly a week
The cab was at a standstill
Until their roving repairman turned up
He lives in Dorset
And is the only man in the south of England
Who can fix these steps
He had to detach the step and take it away
That was at the end of december
Haven’t heard from him since

I won’t list all things that have gone wrong
It would be boring
But during a recent run of poor form
I told the owner
That we really needed to replace it with a new one
I had heard from my previous handler
That he had got £10,000 for his high mileage VW
And the dealers didn’t even look at it
Considering that ours has a most dubious gearbox
Now would be a good time to take advantage

After a brief evening chat
I convinced him to go down the road of a new vehicle
It was all looking hopeful for a few days
Then it took a turn
One afternoon the starter motor fell apart for the third time
Three starters in five months
Runs to over £1500
It was being caused by the failing clutch
And now the ball was rolling back the other way
The clutch was replaced
The gearbox examined
Blaa dee blaa dee fuckin bla
The new vehicle idea evaporates

I now feel that the cab itself is controlling events
I am still bookended by visits to the garage
With a new spectre on the horizon
The turbo
Suddenly one day I was struggling to get up hills
As far as I could fathom
The Turbo was not working
But stuff common sense
They have a computer to plug in
This will tell us what the problem is
So Hal 9000 the motor mechanic was telling us all
That the sensor on the intercooler thought the outside temperature was 170 degrees C
What we needed was a new sensor
But hold on
You can’t just buy the sensor
You have to buy the whole intercooler
Round about £600 fitted
Then a big clue appeared
The supplier couldn’t recall ever having to replace this
So it took nearly a week to get it
But with no other ideas we had to go ahead

On the four days running up to the job
The van behaved impeccably
No power loss…turbo accelerating fine
When the job was finished
The van behaved impeccably
So… I thought success may have been successful
Then on day 3
Power loss
Common sense told me it was the turbo
The garage said it couldn’t be
And plugged in Hal 9000 the mechanic
Hal couldn’t find anything at all this time
So everybody shrugged
£600 pissed into the ether
And me and the owner had to go back to thinking caps

The problem is this
Motor vehicles these days are way too complicated
And the amount of complication
With the added weight of the expense
Does not balance out with enough benefits
The traditional mechanic
Who could listen to your car and poke and prod a few things
Before unlocking the combination of the fault
Has virtually disappeared
I know from experience
That a result of relying on these new mechanical clowns is that
You can follow a trail of investigation
That can cost hundreds even thousands of pounds
Only to find the actual fault costs £50

With all this shambling going on around me
I myself started to become a shambles
Financial requirements of late
Have prompted me to run faster in the hamster wheel
And my neck shoulder and back have begun to suffer
One day off per four is not enough to recover
So I am compounding it
But I cannot stop
Then my feet started to protest at being entombed
With a bout of Athletes
Yesterday at one point I was driving one handed in bare feet
Trying to keep my feet dry in the warm blowing air

I got up this morning
And started up my clumsy vehicle
There was a job on the screen
The address was half way across town
So I took it to get me started
When I arrived the woman was half in the road
Waving at me
Not a good sign
She got in…and she was angry
The cab had been booked the day before
And was 20 minutes late
It was a long round trip with four pick ups
After the second pick-up
I misheard the street name and took a wrong turn
Of course they played hell
I pleaded that I had only just got in the cab
First thing in the morning
And I am immediately involved in a Wacky Races session

I was relieved when it stopped
Some 20 minutes later
I sat there taking in the relief and quiet
Then there was a thumping bang to my left
A van had just passed
And cleaned off my wing mirror
I got out
The driver had stopped
He came up and apologised
Then told me to take it to a garage on the docks

This garage on the docks
Was dealt to me
By the twisted hand of fate
It was full of used Transits
All the mechanics were dirty rugrats
They knew Transits better than anyone in town
I opened a dialogue about the power plague
They had some good ideas
So I left it there

Vamps & Tramps
Wednesday March 03rd 2010, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Driving around the city constantly
One can become like an alien craft
Sent to observe the world
The relentless flow of public
Are only unconsciously aware of your presence

So I was sitting there
In my glass observation dome
Watching the flow
Whilst picking my nose
There was some new material
Right in the awkward front section
And it was well bedded in
The front section can only by tackled by thumb
Or by turning the palm away from the face
Once I had gained a thumbnailhold
It all started to come away
There was a tiny cracking sensation
As I thought
As I looked down upon the bogie
The crack was nasal hair
Still attached
I entered that wooze of satisfaction
As I squashed…rolled…and flicked
And with the lights still on red
Went back to check the front face of the bogie mine
I became aware of something going on to my right
A sensation that made me look down
Oh no…
There was a family of people in the car next to me
They were all picking their noses..and laughing
I gave a big Gallic shrug and started to drive off
Despite the shrug
That was a tad embarrassing

There are some things that I just don’t get
Everybody I know picks their nose
But our society abhors the sticking of a finger in a human hole
Maybe it would be better
If everyone just got on with it in an honest fashion
I scanned the passing crowd
And imagined for a moment half of them picking their noses
As they ambled along the pavement
I decided society was right in this instance
Outright public hole preening would look disgusting
It must be our conditioning
I will be more careful in future

Rank posturing is the next subject
That is when one arrives at the rank
Which slot do you sit in?
Most drivers are careful not to park so that the cabs are side by side
Unless you know them
Then you do
But sometimes you don’t feel like talking
Because it’s often just wingeing
You can only take so much wingeing in one week
Then there is the odd one who will park alongside and drop his window
And you think “who might this be?…what could he want?”
And he just sits there
Emitting microscopic small talk
I have no idea who he is
Replying with the odd droning response
I will stare out the window during the long pauses
Hoping something will happen soon
So you see
Another area to be careful in
Something else to mull through the great mull box

Today though I pulled up next to Jack
He is more of a general chat guy

Spence: Alright Jack
Jack: Alright Spence how’s it going?
Spence: Ohh… bit quiet today…bout you
Jack: Ah I dunno…I’m just getting back into it…I went skiing last week
Spence: Oh aye where to?
Jack: South of France…it was fucking freezing though…-23 half way up the slope
Spence: Wow…I don’t think I’ve experienced it that cold…wern’t you movin around though?
Jack: Yeah but it would get you on the ski lift
Spence: Oh yeah…didn’t think of that
Jack: By the time I got to the bottom I was still cold and I had to get back on the lift and re freeze myself
Spence: So you could get your moneysworth?
Jack: I was there 3 days before I got a call from my wife to tell me that the mother-in-law had died
Spence: Oh dear…did you have to come back?
Jack: Well I expected to…but then she just said during the phone call that I didn’t have to come back…there was nothing that I could do
Spence: That’s a bit of a result…you could stay and keep getting your moneysworth
Jack: Yeah

(Spencer looks over to the drunks in the rank shelter)

Spence: I wonder how cold it’s got to get before them lot fuck off?
Jack: I just don’t know how they can drink lager at this temperature…It would just be coming straight out of me knob
Spence: Ha ha…yeah…like a cartoon bullet hole
Jack: Ha ha…


Spence: It’s funny…whenever I’ve thought about a skiing holiday…I never really think about it being cold
Jack: Did you watch that programme on telly last night about Monaco?
Spence: No…I don’t really watch the telly
Jack: Christ the property there…I’d be lucky if I could swap my house for a parking space in Monaco
Spence: Have yer been there?
Jack: No
Spence: Pfff…it’s an astonishing place…it’s like driving through Trumpton…like a great big animated model…perfect pavements and tarmac roads…every blade of grass is the same length


Spence: I got thrown out of Monaco in 1990…in fact I was only in Monaco for about 20 minutes
Jack: Whatdya get thrown out for?
Spence: I was in a travellin busking band…we were really scruffy and in an even scruffier VW camper van…We stopped the van and I’d barely stretched my legs when a copper appeared and said we had to leave immediately
Jack: So you just left?
Spence: They escorted us to the border and told us not to come back
Jack: Ha ha ha

(Two fares walk up together and they both leave)

After dropping the fare not far from home
A tempting tingling fondness for an afternoon coffee sprouted
And I decided to nip home
I called to get the kettle on but there was no answer
Then the data unit sent me a job
It was for someone directly opposite my house
However it was no good
They were standing outside waiting
I couldn’t really drive past them
Go in my house for 5 minutes
And then wave them over
I had to shelve the coffee

The three men waiting were old Brighton Queens
Gay men who don’t sound gay
Just posh
Kim Philby styley
We tickled along a back route due to the traffic
Before coming to a sudden halt
The car in front had made a rash stop for an ambulance
In the back… two of them yelped halfway out of their seats
It was followed by a great deal of jockeying and laughing
I told them that many people had been on the floor of this cab
If your not paying attention
And not belted up
Your relaxed body will just launch out of the seat
“And end up in the front with you” Said the old queen sat behind me
“Ho ho…wouldn’t be such a bad thing” He continued
Oh wouldn’t it I thought
I could slam the brakes on again
And the old queen somehow flies through that seemingly impossible gap
Landing on the passenger seat to my left
He grabs for my cock
My eyes expand in shock
Before I know it’s out and he’s licking it
Oh my god
In the middle of town
Now he’s sucking away
Why can’t I stop him?
It’s fucking revolting
He seems to be thriving on my revulsion…sucking harder
Why can’t I stop him?
My boundaries are collapsing
I can see the other two greedily watching over the back of the seats
Get off me you dirty bastard
But my left arm is numb
Mam…Help…I want my boundaries back
No!.. fuck the boundaries
Lets all go to Black Rock
Yes yes yes
I could run around in the dirty dirty bushes
Wearing just a t-shirt
Like a little feral communard
I’m turning gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy……………..
I pull up at the rank
I am getting pretty bored
A bored tired frustrated cocktail
Everything that I really want to do in life
Is carried out with twilight energy
I need a bankroll
Some breathing space
To indulge myself
Away from mainstream human beings
Away from mainstream human beings
Away from mainstream

Decisions & Pizzas
Thursday February 18th 2010, 3:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

There are many decisions in this job
Thousands of them per day
The most wearing of them are the second guessing ones
An hour into today and one has just walked out of a house
Heading for the cab
I was straining my neck through the side window
Trying to estimate her capability
My vehicle is high off the ground
Requiring the knee to draw level with the hips
As the foot is raised to climb in
You might be surprised how many people can’t do this
Bloody loads of them
We live in a very unfit world
This one is a woman approaching middle age
She has short legs
I started to open the door
But I hesitated too long
And she was almost upon the door
So I left her to it
The door opened
The first foot was lifted to floor level
Here we go
A big groan was emitted
And she was stuck halfway in and halfway out
Then she started the high pitched woooing
But there was nothing I could do for her
Other than get out and push her in by the arse
Once in she kept puffing out little climaxic phwoops
And I could tell that I was marked as one of those lazy cabbies
They don’t get out to help anyone
And they won’t be getting a tip

And then there is the flipside
I will see another woman who looks similar
And I will think
Better get out and kick out that step
“Oh…there’s no need for that” she will say
“I’m not drawing my pension yet”
And I can hear her saying to her friend quietly
“Cheeky bugger”
Damned if I do damned if I don’t
The usual cab drivers dilemma

I was sat at the rank
Pondering pizzas
Something that I rarely eat these days
It was an advert that I had just seen
“Hand made pizzas”
It seems that everything seems to have that extra dynamic sales patter these days
Even if it’s promoting a glaringly obvious aspect
Do machines make pizzas?
No…surely not
Several furlongs into my ponder
I changed my mind
Machines probably do make pizzas
There are some really bizarre factory machines on the go
Then I dreamed myself into a conference
The man on the podium was promoting his hand made pizzas
And I stood up to raise a question
“Err…so what is the benefit of a Handmade pizza over a machine made one?”
He just quietly stared at me
Nobody moved
Then somebody shouted
“They taste better”
“And how do you know that…
…have you put both of the same pizza in an oven and done a comparison”
“I don’t need to…he told me they taste better…
…so when I get home and I’m eating one…I just know”

Well that’s amazing
We really have evolved
We have actually achieved… Uritopia
Spoonbending mind over matter

Lead Time
Tuesday February 02nd 2010, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“It must be so stressful”
Is a comment regularly aired from passengers
The job…is what they are referring to
They are right
But I don’t think they quite grasp the mettle of it
I am sure that they are thinking about
Traffic and abuse
Which are part of it
But certainly a good cabbie will have the traffic thing under control
And the abuse can be managed
What are stressful are a whole range of things
And to me…the top one is ‘lead time’
‘Lead time’ occurs when you take a booking
You basically run into a point near to the booking when you can’t do anything else
Because it will cause you to overrun
So it is wasted time
And in these days of stiff competition
No taxi firm is going to charge for it

To give you an example
I will go back to the last post
And the Russians
To whom I was demonstrating classic mistakes of the sat nav
They got into the cab at the rank in the town centre
At this point I had one hour left before a pre-booked hospital account job
When they said Pulborough
I went into a trance and started driving off
£70 £70 £70 £70 £70 £70 £70
The finance numskulls invaded the bridge and took control of my brain
The sat nav soon told me that the whole journey
Would get me back to Brighton without a minute to spare
So there could be no mistakes
That pumps up the stress for the rest of the session
And so begins the brass section from Mission Impossible
It all went fine until that sat nav mistake
Which only cost me five minutes
But which cranked the stress up one more notch
I dropped the Russians at the address
Spun around and headed back
Checking the clock and the sat nav prediction
I should just do it
Then I noticed
The fuel gauge
Oh fuck no!
The nearest rememberable gas station was too far away
So I turned to the sat nav for help
And the stress liquid rose up the tube
The nearest fuel stop was a two mile detour
I budgeted a five minute delay and hit the pedal
I wilted on approach
At the dark…shuttered…closed station
Option 2 was next
Two minutes of attacking driving through a single track lane
Lead me to what looked like a farm yard with a petrol pump
In darkness
I gave up and rang the office
Told them that I was stuck in some awful evening traffic
And handed the the whole stressful package back
The brass stabs stopped…and I could breathe again

Five minutes later
I got a call from the office
They couldn’t cover it and gave me it back
I looked at the clock
ETA would be twenty minutes late
Now I had a new problem
Because it was on a Sunday
The usual man for this job was unobtainable
Only he knew the pick up route exactly
My only hope of pulling this off
Was that the first pick up had had the patience to wait for me
For only they would know where to go for the other pick ups
And then I would be responsible for a whole group of missing NHS staff
Twenty gripping self absorbed minutes later I arrived at the church
There was nobody there
That was a relief in itself
As I was knackered from the tension
But then she suddenly appeared
And the whole thing was back on again

This is one example
Of something that is a daily occurrence to varying degrees
The office refers to it as “Stacking”
And forbids us to do it
But they have no control over the hackney fares
So just like a lot of the other drivers who give it some effort
Every day will involve one or more heated drives
Contributing to the many facets that erode ones energy

Into The Teenies We Go
Sunday January 24th 2010, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

And lo the snows receded
And day was not day at all
Nor was it night
It was the colour of modern cars
A spectrum of gray and black
The great windows
On both the north and south wings of my house
Were recovered in dust and grime
But I donned my armour
And jutted my jaw
And climbed into the pilots seat

The first job was from the office
Two foreign walkers
About to hit the South Downs Way
But needing to taxi away the boring city bit
So I took them up to Devil’s Dyke
As always I got out to take in the vast scape from the viewpoint
A glimmer caught my eye from the west
Two large new lakes had appeared
Several weeks of rain
Followed by two foot of snow and more rain
Had created a new habitat

I managed to snap up a punter on the way back in
Always a bonus
The man was a promoter for unlicensed boxing
And appeared to carry the air of a man in the money
I pitched in with a modicum of interest
But I was never going to turn up at one of these events
To watch amateur sport
You need to have a vested interest
Because it is most likely to be pants
Professional sport is often pants
His next event though was going to be big
Lots of people there
Then he gave me the time that it finished
Indicating that I should rank up there at that time for some work
My mind seasoned his comments with a pinch of salt
And I dropped him off opposite the brothel

There are many cabbies that would have followed his lead
And made a note
But here I have to invoke Spencer Dials Theory of Displacement
Which states
When there is a major event going on in the city
Completely ignore it
As lots of the independent cabs head for the action
So creating condensed competition
Often waiting tiresome periods
For fares that are just up the road to the station
Instead carry on doing your normal routine
And watch yourself busy with their displacement

During the Labour party conference last year
Drivers flocked to the seafront at conference chuck out time
I happened to be dropping there
So I decided to join in
The rank by the side of the centre was full
So by some tacit understanding
The queue continued at the night club rank on the other side of the road
But drivers coming in from the seafront didn’t know this
And were dodging into fresh spaces appearing at the back of the main rank
This lead to cabbies waving and shouting from across the road
But because of the noise of the traffic
They were becoming more frantic and angry
After twenty minutes of chin on palm on steering wheel
I got to the front
And had to get out the ramps for wheelchair access
That was going to the station….£3-60

Back in the seventies when I was a kid
I used to dream of flying aircraft
Or even better
On one occasion I found two large pieces of white cardboard
And set about with felt tips and a ruler
To draw my own control panels
I deliberated for the whole day
Over the function of each switch or button
I was thinking of the bridges on Star Trek and Blakes Seven
I needed a guided tour
There were too many blank buttons on my console

Though romp on thirty years
And look at todays computers
From a visual gadget point of view
From my mindframe of the future
They are a big disappointment
It’s just a typewriter and a telly
No brightly lit coloured buttons and sliders
Just a mouse and a little arrow
What a let down!
And all the other modern technology
Has been miniaturised so much
That they are just fiddly and annoying
And the whole modern kaboodle
Is riddled with glitches and faults
The Sat Nav
Though it is a great little instrument
One cannot wholly rely on it
And as a cab driver
It is a tad compromising
Later on this day I found myself burdened with the task
Of transporting some of Brighton City Council’s VIP’s
Including the leader of the city
To somewhere deep into London
A city where I am at the mercy of the Sat Nav
The day before
Knowing this was about to happen
I dashed to the accessory shop
And bought a new lead
This morning I plugged it in…fine
But no it wasn’t fine
It charged the device
But the Sat Nav seemed to think that it was receiving info from a computer
And would only display a picture of a computer tower
So I had to set off to London running the thing on its battery
Which lasts for around an hour
So I am farting around
Switching off
Plugging in
More memorizing
Whilst the VIP’s postured with each other in the back
Never concise
Never to the point
Council political styling of the modern world
Little of use
Lots of shit
Very Important People
Guided by a Very Impotent Sat Nav

At the last of the day
Three Russians got in
They wanted to go well out of town to a village west of Pulborough
I punched it in to the Sat Nav
Which had a teaspoon of power left
So I switched it off til I got near
As I approached the last main crossroad I turned it on
It told me to go straight across
I soured slightly thinking that the better way would have been right
Taking me through the town
I shrugged
It must be a cool short cut
But the way ahead was dark and narrow
And became gradually rougher and rocky
Where was the turn off?
The Russians had stopped chatting
And were all staring at me
Aha at last the right hand turn appeared
It was a clearing leading to what looked like another lane
But it was too dark to see it properly
So I had to turn the van into the clearing to see it
The headlights revealed a classic corker
It was an odd meeting of two pieces of rising land
Leaving what looked like a 15 foot earthquake crevice
Full of zigzagging scrub trees growing diagonally out of the walls
I repressed a laugh
And gave the Russians a pinched apology
The Sat Nav was then replaced with the Russian daughter
Who finished off the job

On the whole though
My job does reflect back to me
That button pushing console world
Unlike the cars of the seventies
With their rudimentary direct toggle switches
My taxi of today has enough buttons
To create the feeling of a space shuttle
I must do several thousand button pushes every day
And I am involved in a big tactical fight
It makes me…Spencer Dial…a Taxi Pilot

Snow Patrol
Sunday January 10th 2010, 9:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

There is nothing like beholding inexperience on a city wide scale
And so it started on the Thursday night
As the gooey eyed folk of Brighton
Looked from their windows
And marvelled at the swirling snowstorm
Laying a heavy white shagpile
The winter wonderland had arrived for a second time in a year
But it wasn’t the same as last time

At seven in the morning I looked in on Junior
He was awake
He said he’d not slept properly because he was thinking about snow
I told him that it hadn’t happened
Go back to sleep
It was ten o clock before he decided to check the sky
Kicking us both into action

I took him to the park
Deciding at the last minute to go in the cab
I was pretty impressed how it gripped and carved it’s way through the snow
Front wheel drive with a heavy front end was key to it’s success
The park was a winter wonderland
Sledges; skis; snowmen; snowballs
But I wasn’t drawn to the fun in the snow
I was pondering how well the cab worked in the snow
There would be an abundance of work
And the day would be full of challenging situations
I almost adopted a heroic stance
With one foot on a rock
Yes I could be ‘Snow Hero’…taxi rescue
Though it would be more like ‘Snow Mercenary’
As soon as Mrs Dial turned up I was off

I quickly worked out that the main roads were do-able
The side roads were fine on the flat
Where there were hills
And bear in mind that Brighton a sits in a steep sided valley…rutted with hills
It seemed the cab was good to go up them
But I had to work out a way to exit onto a main road
Because I didn’t fancy going down them

I sent a text to my mate Jonatron
“Transits rock in the snow”
However his transit had already been caught out
A builder…too much stuff in the back
He had been driving past one of the steepest down roads in town
As he passed it’s corner
He had been captured by it’s gravity
And dragged into a side slide
Stopping precariously near the top
He dare not move it…though it was blocking the road
When he looked up a large scaffolding truck was waiting
The driver was threatening to knock him out of the way if he didn’t move
It was the first sniff of some of the public stupidity about to come

At the half way point of the day
I had completely lost my GPS connection to the office
So I was manually taking the work from the screen
They didn’t know where I was…but it didn’t matter
It gave me more freedom
And by this time the cab had become more of a community bus
Though a mercenary community bus
I was stopping to pick people up
Sometimes with others already in the back
But nobody cared
Everyone seemed willing to chip in to help out
They would be sat in the back divvying money between them
To divide the fare
It all worked out great
The final fare of the first day of snow
Was to the mental hospital on the outskirts
It was booked on account for one nurse
There was no sign of the nurse when I got there
Two departing patients with a large trolley of stuff
Descended on me
They had been waiting for a cab for 40 minutes
Then two other nurses came running up
They had been at the bus stop for ages
No cabs…no buses…they had given up standing there
They were all babbling at once
I held up my hands for them to stop
“Look people just let me try and find this nurse…and I’ll take you all”
I couldn’t find the nurse
But the cab was full
Off on a winding route of bus drops all the way across the city
Endless chatter lead by one of the patients
Nurses…both of them laughing
A satisfying end to a lively day

The next day I was out of the door with gusto
Like a trooper eager for combat
A mercenary trooper of course
And the whole day ran a similar course
The main roads were now pretty clear
The side roads were now packed flat with hard snow or ice
But they were for the most part rough
Which meant it was still safe to go uphill with a bit of grip
With over a day under my belt
I had mastered the techniques required
And the strategy of the route
As darkness fell on the second day
I was carrying six passengers across a usual cut through
“Oh no don’t go this way” said one
“You’ll never get up the hill” said another
“Our engineers have given up on this hill” said another
Before they could finish warning me
With a dose of correct speed
And grumbling high gear
I was already at the top

Day 3 was a different affair
I left Dial HQ with brimming confidence in myself and the Transit
The first job was at the street opposite
Take a girl to one of the hilliest parts of town…Hanover
I decided to go in level by using the main roads up the side
I turned in and passed the police station
And noticed pretty quickly that the streets looked different
The rough packed snow and ice had changed
Unknown to me
It had rained during the night
Smoothing the thick ice to a shiny gloss finish
And the morning sun had left a sweaty layer on top
I turned into Sussex Street hill
For only a few seconds
Before the wheels spun
And I went into a 5 metre backwards diagonal slide
Fortunately back onto a patch of cleared road near the bottom
As I looked across the streets ahead
They would have been impassable anyway
Abandoned vehicles were pointing in every direction

Without heeding that warning
Thinking it was isolated
I entered the top of Clifton Hill passing the old hospital
I realised straight away that the whole hill had become teflon glass
But I was already too far in to back out
I was heading for the downhill section very slowly
At the first level left turn
I applied 3rd gear and a whisper of gas
Now I was tilting slightly to the right
In danger of sliding into the gutter
Up ahead was an Ocado delivery van
The driver sweating teacakes
Trying to free his vehicle with a spade
I tiptoed past him gently turning left back up the hill
My delicate momentum gradually took me back out on the main road
I stopped…took stock
And decided not to do any more side roads
I was very lucky to be still in business

Brighton was well and truly caught out
In February the snow fell like this for the first time in twenty years
This was the second snow that had landed and stayed inside the same year
But what marked this out as different
Was that overnight it had rained on top of the ice
And water running down the ice packed hills
Had smoothed away the roughness
And turned it into Megateflon
I would have doubted that 4×4’s could have climbed some of these hills

To spice up the danger
Almost all of the pedestrians were now walking on the roads
Because the paths had become too dangerous to walk on
On a pick-up at the hospital
A nurse told me that the A+E was over-run with broken bones
No old people
They had stayed put
It was all young people
Later in the day one of our radio operators
Was carried off to hospital with a broken hip

It had become clear to at least all the cabbies
That only the main roads were free to travel on
But some of the public just didn’t get it
You could feel the build up of impatience around the city
Many people started to blame the Council
It was their fault that the side roads were treacherous
As I stopped at the top of one street
Folks were busy up and down
Clearing the paths outside their houses
This was all very well
But surely the way forward for the council at least
Would be to have a representative
They would call on each street
Until they found a volunteer
Who could take charge of their road
The main instruction being
To raise a crew with spades
To clear two tracks all the way down each street
So that emergency vehicles and gritters
Could access each road
And of course
They themselves would be able to get their cars free
I am fairly sure that in some Euro countries this is an obligation

As I was now restricting my access to many roads
Passengers began to challenge me
On a few occaisions came a batch of emotional blackmail
Together with some expert knowledge of the current conditions
I stopped at the bottom of one street
And walked up the short bendy hill to find the house
He came out before I got there
And instructed me to come up in the cab
I refused and told him to go down to the cab
Then we became locked in an argument
Where he was blackmailing me 
With the fact that his uncle was down syndrome
And couldn’t walk across this stuff
During this duel
He quoted the fact that a London style cab had just been up there
I started laughing
I knew that there were no London cabs running
Because most of them had been abandoned
Ungainly tubs with rear wheel drive
The guy then offered me more money to try to get up
I looked at the cab
And reckoned I would get maybe 20 feet before I spun
Then I could slide gently back onto the main road
So I made it look like I was trying
And spun to a stop just where I thought
The family…pleased that I had tried (demonstrated)
Spilled out of their house
The uncle did struggle but made it in the end 

Shortly after this
I dropped a couple at the top of a long slope
“Go down the bottom can yer” she said
“No” said I
“How do you expect me to carry my baby down there?”
I had gone beyond giving explanations and just stood my ground
Again they cited the example of that excellent snow vehicle ‘the london cab’
I sighed and waited
Until they paid me and got out

One last job from the ranks
A large family filled the back
I took them to the dangerous high-point
Where Jonatron had abandoned his van
We stopped at the very top
Once they were out and off walking down the hill
I stood there for a moment
Breathing in the sharp air
I felt in tune with this weather
It wakes the senses
Crisp and fresh
To take in the diffused silence
Lots of small meditations at every stop

A car horn snapped me out of it
They wanted me to move the cab so they could get down the hill
I ignored them and climbed back in to do a bit of unfinished paperwork
They decided to drive around me
Rolling slowly across the edge of the hill
Then the car stopped
The confident dapper guy in his camel hair coat got out and walked around the other side
Whilst his blonde wife shuffled across the seats
I stopped what I was doing
This was going to be entertaining
He took control…or so he thought
The Saab gently drifted sideways
As he started to fight with the wheel
Somehow he managed to point it towards the first side street
And it beached itself outside the corner shop
Where the fools left it

Bring in the New Year
Thursday December 31st 2009, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Being stoned is a problem
In that all those deep insights
That make you laugh
As your brain forges along
Seem to be from some other place
Here in sobre world
They are daft ideas
But only a few hours ago they were thrilling,,,exciting possibilities
Like a high speed fishing boat with no nets
You buzz through it
And collect nothing
It must be in a different format
A format of the brain
I was trickling along with some thoughts
And in mid laugh
I thought…Ooooo…better write this down
This is good
So I grabbed the puter
But I couldn’t remember how it started
I spent ages trying to think of how it started
Until I remembered it
Yes that was it
But then I had forgotten the rest of it
So I just had this dumb beginning
Then after a short while
I couldn’t remember a trace of it
It had gone

As a cab driver
You come to learn ultimately one central thing
Everything is shit
I am pasing it
It is passing me
It never stops
And shit
And shit
And shit
And shit
No shit
And more shit
I am so tired of shit
That I can’t be arsed to do anything about it
There is just overwhelmingly too much of it
I am even struggling to write this
Yeah (comes round)
The Great Generation Game
Watching the great conveyor belt go by
It’s easy to remember most of it
Because it was all the same
The same shit
“Spencer Dial”
“What can You recall from the belt?”
“You have 30 seconds”
‘Well…there was lots of shit’
‘Mostly pointless shit’
Unlike manure
Which has a point
So this is worse than shit
It could require a new word
But shit is such a good word
I enjoy it
When I get home
And I am telling Mrs Dial
Some of the shit things
I really enjoy the bit
Where I emphasise
Just how shit
The shit thing was
We tried being positive at the rank once
But it didn’t work
We felt better whingeing
Or taking the piss

Lets hope 2010 brings lots more shit
So I can tell you
How shit it was

More shit
And a happy new year

Ups & Downs
Sunday December 13th 2009, 3:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This week was a great example
Of the balancing nature of everything
I worked on Monday
Intending to work on Tuesday (6th straight day)
And then have Wednesday off
I really needed a day off
I was exhausted
But when I got up on Tuesday there was a text
From the night driver
Stating that he was going to work that night
This was a bit of a blow because I had got up really late
Thinking I could spill into the evening
So I made a start anyway
But it was a shit start
And morale quickly fell away
Then I remembered that the Step repairman was due in the afternoon
And morale crumbled
I would have to take this day as my day off
But taking a day off…your one day off
After you have already started it as a day of work
Is not good
As I ruminated about all this parked at the rank
The cabby with the bad teeth came to the window for a couple of fivers
He asked me if I hated the job yet
I said “No…not at all”
The job was definitely not good for me
But freedom from wanker bosses
And freedom to choose when I worked
And a wage that would be unattainable anywhere else
Seemed worth the grief

I gave up soon after
And returned home
With these freedoms in mind
I decided… why not take today ‘and’ tomorrow off?
So I relaxed into the sofa with a cup of tea

The phone rang
It was Dave the owner
He said that the Step repairman had pulled out of today
Great…he was going to upset some ‘other’ useful day
I may as well have stuck at it

I sat back down
The phone rang again
It was the radio room
They were offering me an 8-seater to Stanstead tomorrow morning
£160 for four hours work
I sighed a tired sigh
And dreamily watched my day off trip over the rooftops and disappear
So I moved my long awaited day off to Thursday

After a dreadful nights sleep
I took five Spaniards to the airport
None of them spoke English
And I…with two years of Spanish under my belt
Bottled the chance of dialogue
And didn’t speak a word to them for the whole journey
I am often disappointed in myself
Too often
A break was required before I returned
So I stopped at the Birchanger services
Everything was settling on me like a dirty fog
I stumbled around Birchanger for a while…indecisive
I hated Birchanger
The people who populated it disgusted me
I found a lonely seat
Ate a sandwich
Then closed my eyes
And meditated to an emitting TM mantra
In a few minutes my brain dropped a gear
And I entered a vast tingly plaza of satisfying confusion
A few more minutes and the mantra had become automatic
Lost in the hum
Then some old couple had the temerity
To sit at a sleeping man’s table
I pulled my eyes from the gloop of the treacly plaza
Looking around thinking the area must have become full
It was not the case
There were plenty of tables to sit at
And they were huddled around my little table
I wondered if I was emitting some serene happy signals
And then closed my eyes again away from disgusting Birchanger
Back to the delicious plaza
But I just coudn’t with these people sat there
They didn’t seem to notice me
Maybe I meditated myself invisible
I pulled myself together
And staggered off back to the cab
I sang loudly along to Burt Bacarach songs for the whole journey
To keep me awake

After I arrived back in Brighton
I took a walk into the town centre
Then ran into a spot of bother
As I walked through the old lanes I had to stop
I thought I was going to faint
I had to stand still for five minutes
When I resumed walking
It was with my chin resting on my chest
Walking very slowly in some kind of default repair mode
Slow concentrated breathing was required
Maybe my recent run of poor sleep had caught up with me
Or was it a recovery blip from last years operation
By the time I was back home I had improved slightly

Thursday morning came
It was at last my real day off
Then the phone went
It was Micky my previous operator
He had recently got back into giving me work
Since his own driver was proving unreliable
He had a cheque for me
And another job
It was a £25er that afternoon
Before I could say anything
He pointed out that I was the last person left who ‘could’ do it
And it would be partnered up with the same customer tomorrow for £50
There was a ‘please help me out’ pause
With a puff of air I agreed

For the rest of the day
I couldn’t settle into a relaxed ‘day off’ mode
Because it was going to be hyphened at 3pm
As the time approached
I consoled myself with the fact
That it would only take an hour
Then I would be completely free from 4pm

The job went fine
Until I was packing away the wheelchair ramp
“Are you coming back for us?”
“We are going to be an hour and a half”
Mick made no mention of a return
This must have got lost in the translation
I had to go and find a cafe
I really wanted a seat where I could close my eyes
Without somebody bothering me
Without opening my eyes to find a group of followers gathered at my table
There wasn’t such a seat available
So I sat for an hour with a lifestyle mag

I arrived back home at 7-30
There was nothing to eat

The next day
And I was back at the main helm
The week had been a mix of
Not enough work
And not enough rest
Just time escaping into some vacous side hole
Today was back in the mainline full day of work
Or so I thought
I had barely £40 on the clock
When the nearside step jammed again
It wouldn’t be so bad
If the thing jammed in the closed position
But you can’t carry on working
With a foot of step sticking out
So I had to pack up and head for the garage

When I arrived at the garage
The main man was having a stand up argument
With one of our drivers
I don’t know this guy personally
But he is one of the most miserable drivers alive today
He is known for wanking to porn dvd’s
In quiet locations inbetween jobs
His current misery however
Is a deep and destructive one
And caused by Micky
He replaced his 8 seater cab a year ago
And sold his old one to divwanker
220,000 miles on the clock
And 3 propshaft changes
I gasped when he told me how much it sold for
“Jesus Micky!” I said
“I wouldn’t have given ‘any’ money for that thing”
He laughed one of his compact evil northern laughs
But that wasn’t all of it
Put through a recent compliance test
It was a flying disaster
Then the engine blew it’s guts
He had sinced backpedalled another £7000
As he stood there at the door spitting his parting words
I could sense his hollow pain
Then he wombled away
And climbed into an 9 year old peugeot
That used to be his
Now he had the the indignity of renting it back

I tossed my keys on the counter
And popped across the road to one of my favourite little cafes
Where I sat and wrote this

Wackies & Loonies
Monday November 23rd 2009, 3:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I suppose one of the things that keeps this job so alive
Is the unpredictability
Some drivers can’t cope with too much of it
So they sign themselves up for regular runs
Whereas I can’t cope with the groundhog effect
So I sign up for nothing
This morning started fairly well
Until I was called to a school job as I was dropping on the outskirts
I had done this one before
Wacky dad…normal son
Who goes to a wacky school
On my last visit here
The dad came out first and wrote down my number plate
Before disappearing inside
When I asked the son what he was doing
He replied…”Oh he’s a nutcase”
I knocked on the door…and nutcase answered
He turned side on and looked at me over his shoulder
“You don’t collect my son until half past…ever”
I sighed and looked at my watch
It said 8.27
I looked back at nutcase and paused for a moment
Then I turned and left
I could go and sit in my cab for 3 minutes
But I wouldn’t do that on principal
I started the cab and got out of Dodge
Knowing that I was the only cab anywhere near Dodge
And that the kid would be most late for school

That had spannered the flow of the morning
Then fortunately the data unit beeped into life and sent me a job
But unfortunately… it was from a banned address
I knew…because I had banned it myself
And I had posted the new ban
Because the man was already banned by all the cab companies
But he just keeps coming in under the radar somehow
Maybe he is proving that banning someone isn’t possible
I looked at the screen for a moment
Considering sending it back
Considering being well behind by 10 o clock
And then accepting that my morning was going wonky anyway
So I drove to the address
It was a good job that I did
Loony tunes came out in his dressing gown
Asking me to wait for a minute
Then one of his son’s got in
A few minutes later followed by the other son
There was a sombre atmosphere in the back
LT stood at the door
“Maybe you should wait until they’ve brought the body out”
There was silence…then he closed the door
Somebody had suddenly died
I was guessing that it was a friend of the younger son
It occured to me that if I had sent the job back
He would have probably turned up at our office on a rampage
The address was next to the main central park
A police car and ambulance were already in attendance
My curiosity burned
Enough to buy a paper later on
Enough to watch the local news
But nothing was forthcoming

I returned to my rank
And was the only cab there
The hobos were out in force
A good dozen of them
Golden cans of Special Brew
Black cans of Tennants Super
A gradual increase of heroin and drink injuries
Of bloated…rotted limbs
They sealed off the area between the rank shelter and the park bench
No public will pass this way
Prefering to walk around the rank shelter
I have decided that I no longer find them amusing
No…I want them gone
I discussed it with another driver
But he said that neither the cops or the council would do anything
I sat pondering
Hatching a plan
Maybe the key would be not to move the hobos
But move the bench
A white van…hi viz jackets…tools
Nobody would stop us or remember us

After a few jobs dallying around
I got called to a cafe on Hove seafront
The other cabbies affectionately refer to it as “Peg Leg’s”
It’s actually the new cafe of Heather Mills
In a city bombarded with cafes
It’s nothing special
My job was to collect a parcel of food and drink
And deliver it to the mental hospital
When I arrived I noticed that it was a ward that I had never been on
I took a right..walked down the corridor…and pressed the intercom
I was told there was no access through this door
And given further instructions
So I followed them to another ward
A woman greeted me
She told me the food was for someone on the top security wing
And directed me to “The Airlock”
I had to pass a series of observation rooms
Which all appeared to be empty
And then waited for the woman to turn up
The airlock was two big doors a metre apart
She opened the first one and ushered me in to the space
Then closed it and opened the second one
A guy appeared very quickly
Unshaven…big staring eyes
Constantly moving like a low frequency vibration
He smiled at me and passed me a tenner
Asking me where I was from
He quickly fired off two jokes about Hull
I can’t remember what they were exactly
Because I was curious about his accurate Hull accent
Throughout…the woman kept exactly between us
Until we backed out and closed the airlock

One thing learned in the process of constant driving
Is wariness of certain drivers
As I am in the midst of the hum de dum of my journey
A car up ahead seemed to brake for no reason
It woke me up
I acknowledeged an unpredictable driver up ahead
He was tootling along
Varying his speed between 30 and 20mph
Quite randomly
We approached a mini roundabout
He took the turn right only lane
I took the straight ahead lane and accelerated to get him out of the way
My mistake…never assume anything with these people
He carried on ahead just like me
The gap ahead was for one vehicle with gutter space either side
We jammed into it exactly side by side
So close I could have leaned out of the window
And jiggled the ladies earings
Both of them were oblivious to my prescense
At the next roundabout I stared into their window
Still no reaction
It was a pair of pensioners
They were driving in a world
Where everybody else had disappeared
Miles and miles of empty roads and ghost towns
One could almost look forward to being in such a carefree world

In a carefree manner myself
I decided to repair to the tavern after work
A pub meal and a spot of european football
As I stood at the bar ordering my fare
I noticed a group of guys who had gathered to watch the game
Seated in the lower level of the pub
They would no doubt be described as a collection of nerds
Beards…specs…dress code…
But I took great comfort at the site of them
I have fond memories hanging with the nerds back in Hull
It was always friendly…rich in conversation…interesting
And always…a good helping of indulgence

Dozing & Damage
Monday November 09th 2009, 3:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Recently I have got into the habit of nodding off at the rank
It’s a bit of a tasty pleasure
Like falling into a wonderful hole
Safe in the confines of my vehicle
However…I have walked past cabbies asleep in their vehicles
And I would rather not appear to be doing this
So I pull down my sunglasses…remain sitting upright…and fall
But the punter gets in the cab
And says…”Sorry to wake you driver”
How annoying
I thought maybe this was because I hadn’t noticed them approaching
So I started dropping off with my head facing away from the kerb
And still they would apologise for waking me
Today to counter the problem
I stretched out an old broadsheet across the steering wheel
Lowered my sunglasses and slipped into bliss
So I am just another cabbie deeply engrossed in his newspaper
Secretly slumbering
The sliding door opened and a man got in
He apologised for waking me
I may as well stretch out across the seats and don a Dickensian night cap

On the way to the station
Another patch of guerrilla roadworks had risen
But this one had cause for celebration
On the roads off to the sides
Big men with big rollers
Were resurfacing shit surfaces
I had not seen these men with their machines
This far inside the city for a long time
I was traveling down one of the worst roads in town
Upper Gloucester Road
A road that causes my camionetta
To rock and roll
It was this road that prompted me to think of looking for a ‘racing line’
The ‘racing line’ on UGR is simple
I ride with two wheels in the gutter
It reduces the disturbance by half
On many of the other shit roads
I am still searching
And searching for the ‘racing line’
Is a tricky business
Another layer of distraction
Amongst the business of concentration
I have a deep yearning to meet the top dog responsible for these roads
To make me understand
How all this works
Two days later the big men and big machines would disappear
All the roads off Upper Gloucester would be black and smooth
But Upper Gloucester was to remain a mountain dirt track

I was called to collect a group of nurses
The instruction stated they were waiting at the entrance of the Sea life Centre
Here comes the air taxi
A roaring sound from above the Sea life Centre
The wind from the hovering taxi engines blows the hair of the nurses
The speakers send out the warning that passengers are boarding
Ramps lower and the nurses climb the steps into the big flying cab
The cab tilts it’s wings the ramp clamps…lights flashing
And hits boost for NHS headquarters
Yep…would have been good
And the only way they could have been collected
Considering they were standing behind a long uninterrupted railing
On the edge of a main roundabout
I drove past shaking my head
And parked some hundred yards up the seafront
Got out and took a little walk to go and round them up

On the way to NHS admin HQ
A chap on radio 4 was discussing ambulance sirens
It seemed to get the interest of the nurses… so I truned it up a little
The main point was people not hearing the siren
Due maybe to loud music going on in the car
So they had come up with the idea of a powerful subwoofer
That causes vibrations through vehicles in the viscinity of the ambulance
My eyebrows raised and a puff of doubtful air left my mouth
How is some kid listening to heavy dubstep going to define this alien sound?
Will the NHS woofer out-woof the kids woofer?
Is this just going to add to the general confusion and sometimes panic?
As the drivers freeze trying to work out where it’s coming from
No…this is not money well spent
The only solution that I could think of in the discussion that followed
Was to make use of digital information boards
To inform traffic that an emergency vehicle was coming
Emergency staff could then fine tune the system by putting up more digital screens in problem areas
Spencer solves another national problem

Last job of the day from sainsburys
An old (late 60’s) west country woman and her shopping and her dog
I’ve picked her up a few times
Lord struth almighty…look at that short skirt she is wearing
I looked away as she climbed in
She chatted in her cornish drawl constantly
But I couldn’t hear her from the back of the cab
Until we arrived at the house
It’s not easy conversing with someone you can’t hear
I opened the side door
The dog jumped out
And I started removing the shopping onto the street
In the process of turning to and fro
I was caught out
As I turned round to collect some more bags
She had bent over right in front of me…just a few feet away
Oh no…skirt at full elevatation
White lacy underwear on a confusing skinscape
With a big round shit stain in the middle
Oh dear me
As Neil Young would have said
It’s The Knickers and the Damage Done