The ‘W’ Word

wedding It’s the ‘W’ word

There comes a time in every fathers life which he anticipates and dreads in equal measure. With just six words, your little girl grows up and your bank balance changes irrevocably.

“Dad, I’m going to get married” whoosh 30 years of your life has flashed by and it will never be the same again.

First came ‘the dress’, my luck was in, I would not be required during this part of the process, and only cabbie wife accompanied my daughter to choose said garment.

“The dress has cost double what we budgeted for” was the opening gambit as they returned from their shopping foray. My head snapped up with such force from a quiet read of my newspaper, that at first I feared a trip to an osteopath would be required.

“But never mind, we can economise with some of the other items”, was the solution for my wallet.

[N]o limousine for my daughter as she wants a white taxi just like Dad’s. Great thinks I, pick up from house off to church then on to the reception. Two hours work on tariff 2, £40 tops.

And this is where the ‘W’ word comes in. For whenever the word that dare not speak its name is mentioned (WEDDING) you add a nought at the end of the price.

“One white cab, flowers and ribbon £400, but to you Squire with a trade discount £360, do you require chilled champagne at £40 a bottle or a release of white doves?”

“We need a function room for late afternoon and evening, considering we are in a recession what’s your best price?” was my opening gambit on the phone. “Is that for a wedding? Then its £2,000”. “Oh! Yes and the meals we serve in the public restaurant costing £12.50, we will charge you £27 plus VAT.

The organist at the church you would have thought a rather charitable chap helping out on Sunday, his fee for 45 minutes graft . . . £100.

Now I’m the sort of husband that occasionally, just occasionally buys his wife flowers. So I know a thing or two about their cost, with when the ‘W’ is said 60 carnations wrapped in silver foil – £3 each! Vases on the tables, cost in IKEA £10 for six, “Well Sir, we can rent you the vases for £7.50 each plus VAT”.

Now, does anyone want a cab, I promise not to mention the ‘W’ word.

The most dangerous single organism on earth

the-end-is-nighYou have gone back to work to find another round of redundancies being announced; your investments have disappeared with the morning mist; and are waiting for those credit card bills to drop on your doormat.

It could be worse, far, far worse. As a diversion from CabbieBlogs’ Weekly Whinge, spare a moment to reflect on Thomas Midgley an American mechanical engineer turned chemist.

[W]hile lauded at the time for his discoveries, today his legacy is seen as far more mixed considering the serious negative environmental impacts of his innovations. One historian remarked that Midgley “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth history.”

In December 1921 Midgley discovered that the addition of tetra-ethyl lead (‘TEL’) to gasoline prevented internal combustion engines from ‘knocking’. The company dubbed the substance ‘Ethyl’, avoiding all mention of lead in reports and advertising. Oil companies and car makers, especially General Motors which owned the patent strenuously promoted leaded fuel as an alternative to ethanol or ethanol-blended fuels, on which they could make very little profit.

The subsequent addition of lead to gasoline eventually resulted in the release of huge amounts of lead into the atmosphere, causing health problems around the world. Midgley himself had to take a prolonged vacation to cure him of lead poisoning. “After about a year’s work in organic lead,” he wrote in January 1923, “I find that my lungs have been affected and that it is necessary to drop all work and get a large supply of fresh air”.

In April 1923, General Motors created the General Motors Chemical Company to supervise the production of TEL by the DuPont Company, and placed Midgley as vice president. However, after two deaths and several cases of lead poisoning at the TEL prototype plant in Dayton, Ohio, the staffs at Dayton was said in 1924 to be ‘depressed to the point of considering giving up the whole tetraethyl lead program.’ Over the course of the next year, eight more people would die at DuPont’s Deepwater, New Jersey plant.

Dissatisfied with the speed of DuPont’s production using their ‘bromide process’, General Motors and Standard Oil created the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation in 1924, and built a new TEL plant using a more dangerous high-temperature “ethyl chloride process” at the Bayway Refinery in New Jersey. Within the first two months of its operation, the Bayway plant was plagued by more cases of lead poisoning, hallucinations, insanity, and then five deaths in quick succession. On October 30, Midgley participated in a press conference to demonstrate the “safety” of contact with the substance. In this demonstration, he poured tetra-ethyl lead over his hands, then placed a bottle of the chemical under his nose and breathed it in for sixty seconds, declaring that he could do this every day without succumbing to any problems whatsoever. However, the plant was decisively shut down by the State of New Jersey a few days later, and Standard was forbidden to manufacture TEL there again without state permission.

In 1930, General Motors charged Midgley with developing a non-toxic and safe refrigerant for household appliances. He (along with Charles Kettering) discovered dichlorodifluoromethane, a chlorinated fluorocarbon (“CFC”) which he dubbed Freon. CFCs were also used as propellants in aerosol spray cans, metered dose inhalers (asthma inhalers), and more. In recent years CFCs have been attributed to causing severe damage to the Earth’s ozone layer.

In 1940, at the age of 51, Midgley contracted polio which left him severely disabled. This led him to devise an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. This system was the eventual cause of his death when he was accidentally entangled in the ropes of this device and died of strangulation at the age of 55, and they say there is no justice in this world.

Such is life . . .

Survival of the Fattest

dodo1_small1

When Charles Darwin proposed his thesis that breeding selection was predicated on the most able of a species wanting to mate to the exclusion of less developed members of their species to cope with the rigors of life he could not have foreseen today’s Homo sapiens.

Well I think that the time has come to re-examine Darwin’s hypothesis. You see the most successful country ever to have existed on the planet is America, and the first thing you notice on arrival there are bums – they are enormous. Also the most successful television programmes from that country is full of fat people, just think of Opera Winfrey’s guests.

[N]ow come back to England (because that is what this blog is about). Who is the most successful at breeding? Is it the stick thin models, the City career people spending their spare time in the gym? No, its chavs, fat mum, frail looking dad and very fat kids, loads of them. Oh! And the pit bull terrier looking about the brightest of the bunch.

In fact if this current trend continues within a generation only the fat will be left. And that neatly bring us back to Darwin.

Scientists (or would it be twitchers) could sit in their hides observing the behaviour of the overweight chavs and study their unique language, almost unintelligible to anyone outside their sphere.

Unfortunately this also has a more serious side that the Karen Mathews trial has brought to the public’s attention. She watched Jeremy Kyle and not Opera.

While those with a body mass index of under 18.5 would be put on the at risk register and would slowly fade away going the same way as the dodo.

It’s Life Jim, but not as we know it

larson_med1Good morning everyone, today we are going to talk about . . . mini cabs, please! Do wake up at the back this IS important.

There have been 104 sexual assaults last year according to Transport for London’s figures for September 2008 down 44 per cent since 2002, mostly by unlicensed mini cab drivers.

The 80,000 private hire operators as we are supposed to call them now, are vetted but there are a growing number of bogus drivers.

They buy second hand cars at auction, complete with Public Carriage Office certification affixed to the cars’ windscreens, these vehicles usually fetch a higher price at these auctions and because the PCO certificate has a theft proof device it’s easier just to buy the whole car.

[B]y hanging around in the West End, apparently with immunity from prosecution for touting or parking violations, this low life inveigle young people into their cars, they often charge exorbitant rates, and some even carry weapons to enforce their high charges. While even legal mini cabs park for long periods on double yellow lines outside their offices, apparently with complete immunity from prosecution.

And did you know anyone can register their vehicle as a ‘private hire vehicle’? There is even a new Rolls Royce with the appropriate documentation on its windows possibly registered just to avoid the congestion charge.

The criteria to become a mini cab driver is very flexible they only need a medical form signed by their doctor, a criminal record bureau disclosure check, photocopies of their DVLA/EU driving licence and documentation to show a right to work and live here while some documents can be provided as photostats, easily forged and they do not even have to show a command of Queen’s English.

And have you noticed the speed of the people carriers used as private hire? They are usually working for a large transport company, their pay is very low, and they have to work very long hours and every job counts.

The solution is very simple: enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.

More officers, at present there are plans to double the number of Enforcement Officers which at present amount to only 34 to cover the whole of London 24 hours a day.

Arresting touts and illegal ‘cabs’, there have been only 4,000 arrests since 2003.

If they are convicted, jail them. If they are illegal immigrants deport them (I really sound like your average cabbie now).

White Bikes

They are becoming a familiar sight alongside many British roads. More than 100 old bicycles painted white and chained to lamp posts and railings have sprung up at ‘danger-spots’ over the past year.

Dubbed ‘ghost-bikes’, they have been put there to warn motorists approaching dangerous bends to look out for cyclists and, in many cases, have been left at locations where riders were killed.

[T]he UK campaign was started by road safety campaigner Steve Allen after his friend James Foster was struck by a drunk driver doing 55mph on a 30mph road as he cycled in north London. Angry at what he believed to be a lenient sentence, Steve set off on a quest to highlight the dangers for cyclists on Britain’s roads.

Mr Allen established a United Kingdom branch of Ghost Bikes a group that operates in 43 countries. Picking up the bikes for a pittance from landfill dumps and scrap metal merchants he painted them white in his back garden. Now more than 100 of them are to be found in London, Oxfordshire, Manchester and Brighton, although local councils have removed many of them.

One of the white bikes is on a junction in Hackney, North London. It was erected in April after the death of cyclist Anthony Smith, 37, who was crushed by a lorry.

CabbieBlog for once does not have much to say, just it’s a pity these selfish drivers that I see every day on London’s roads didn’t for one moment think what these bikes mean. Keep up the good work Steve.

Taxi talk without tipping

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