A Strange Saturday Down South

A Strange Saturday Down South

What’s your policy on removing nails from tyres? Until recently, my policy was to take all spiky objects out and hope for the best. That’s now changed.

When my cab was being serviced a few months’ ago, the garage wallah pointed out I had a screw in my tyre. He advised leaving it in. Figuring that the screw would embed itself in further, I went against medical advice and took the pliers to my tyre when I got home. The tyre stayed fully inflated and I felt duly vindicated. Chris’s Rule no.1: trust your own judgement.

On Friday October 19th I noticed another screw in my tyre. When I got home I went out with a torch and went to work with my pliers. This time things didn’t go so well. As the cat watched on with curiosity, I removed the screw, only to hear the sickening sound of hissing as the air exited my tyre.

Needless to say, my tyre was flat in the morning. I didn’t panic as I recently had the foresight to buy a high speed pump and a can of puncture repair slime. I squirted the green slime into the tyre and pumped it up. All the air gushed out again! I’d have to put the spare on. I’d never changed the wheel on a TX4 before, but managed to work out the jack and wrench, &c. I washed the dirt and slime from my hands and made for ATS in Camden, running nearly an hour behind on my workday schedule.

In Camden I was told that the tyre could normally have been repaired, but I’d ruined it by squirting green slime into it. Great – more expense! My spare was ropey too, so I ended up £190 lighter after buying two new tyres.

After getting my tyres replaced I put on the rank at St Pancras. I was asked to go to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I’d never heard of it, but it’s down Woolwich way. I went to Woolwich once, about twenty years ago, and I hadn’t been through the Blackwall Tunnel for at least three years. A lot could go wrong here, I thought, as I set the Cabbie’s Mate sat nav.

I still managed to miss a crucial turning off the A102, and found myself lost. I can always find my way out of trouble in Central London, but I was in Kidbrooke with traffic rushing past. I’m sure cab drivers more experienced than me have never been to Kidbrooke. The arrow pointer on my sat nav was twisting and turning and I didn’t know if I was going north, south, east or west. I eventually righted myself and found the Sun in the Sands roundabout, which I was vaguely familiar with. I admitted to my customer that I’d mucked things up and took some money off the fare, as I always do in these situations.

I had a lot of South London action that weekend. The previous evening I went down to Kent House Road in Beckenham. Driving back through Dulwich I wondered why I don’t get more jobs going south. Dulwich isn’t a poor area, but I hadn’t been there for a couple of years. Surely our customers aren’t as southern-phobic as cab drivers are meant to be? Maybe they sink into depression driving around the Elephant & Castle too?

On my way back from Woolwich I queued for ages at some road works in Evelyn Street. I gave in and went for lunch at the drive-in McDonald’s, where I tried to recover from my South London ordeal.

I got going again, and in Tooley Street I stopped for a couple who were going to Soho. There were lots of blokes hanging around London Bridge Station and The Barrowboy and Banker, and there was a heavy police presence. The couple asked me what the riot police were doing there. I remembered that Millwall were playing QPR. I didn’t think Millwall had any particular issues with QPR, but then it doesn’t take much to start them off, does it? I did a quick right turn on to the bridge before anyone saw my West Ham air freshener. I kept calm and carried on to Dean Street. Laugh? I nearly joined the couple in the pub…

Copyright:  Chris Ackrill, November 2013

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