Monthly Archives: February 2014

Hailing a Cab – the British Way

New York cab driver and writer, Eugene Salomon, recently wrote an article formally recognising taxi hailing techniques and awarding points for style.  This is my basic introduction to British taxi hailing.

For effectiveness I’d suggest decisiveness and clarity: the driver has to see you, that’s the whole point.  Raise your hand with confidence when the driver can realistically see you, then reinforce your hail when the cab gets closer.  PLEASE stand somewhere sensible:  not at traffic lights, on zebras, zig zags, or in front of a bus in Oxford Street.  And don’t try to stop us on double red lines when you need to load freight (we only get two minutes before the Transport for London cameras swing in to action and we’re charged £130 for the resulting photo).   

Eugene suggests whistling, or standing in the road.  This might work in NYC, but I consider it un-British over here.  I wouldn’t normally respond to a whistle – unless it’s from a hotel official in a braided top hat – so keep that for the dog.  Standing in the road is not only dangerous, but it smacks of desperation.  I don’t want desperate “Euston Station in five minutes, Driver!”  I don’t like rushing, I don’t like stress.  

The arm-out hail is the accepted London hail, though foreign visitors make things interesting by bringing their own methods over.  The cute, underarm, hand-flex favoured by Asian tourists is my favourite, though on a dark, rainy night, the arm raise is more effective.  

Eugene describes a range of more sophisticated hails, including the Kissing Hail (see his Cabs are for Kissing blog for more). While the wrinkling of the nose hail might work under certain conditions, it’s frustrating when a business opportunity is missed by an ambiguous hail.  If we’re for hire and we see you clearly require our services, we’ll usually stop.

And don’t stop us in Tottenham Court Road (one way north) when you’re going south.  You spoil it for everyone.

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Stoned at the Winter Olympics with Skeleton Bob

I was gripped catching a few minutes of curling.  Curling shouldn’t be interesting: “What’s it about?”

“Well, a bloke throws a shiny stone with a handle across the ice.”  

And what’s that all about with the brooms?  Is is a gimmick?  Showmanship?  Are the surfaces not cleaned before the game starts?

Do they take it in turns to be the broom-wallah, or is that their job, with no chance of promotion?     

How do people get into these strange sports?  Curling certainly wasn’t available at my Essex Comprehensive, and I don’t recall a bobsleigh centre anywhere in the area, even to cater for the posher schools.  The skeleton bob isn’t a proper sport is it?  You sit on a tray and go down an icy hill, very fast.  It’s a shame we couldn’t try this at school.  The 70s was  free of Elfin Safety and this would’ve appealed to us.  But no, the school had no willingness to nurture our sporting aspirations  (we were best kept away from the javelin so we mostly had to make do with being kicked to pieces by the football bullies).  I was so deprived!

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Flood Alert

Such terrible scenes around the country as floods and winds destroy homes and businesses. I just can’t imagine what it must be like, just as the government probably can’t.  David Cameron visited Somerset last week, just after the nick of time.  Things are more urgent now as the mayhem moves nearer to London:  the last thing Dave wants is Tory voters being flushed down the Thames Valley towards the sea at Southend.  Yes, it’s now Red Alert as Berkshire and Surrey are under threat, though it looks like the government might at last put its hand in its pocket to help those affected.  It all seems a little too little too late to me.  What about all the billions earmarked for the HS2 train line? Yes, the train that promises to save us twenty paltry minutes on a trip to Birmingham….

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Useless Stuff (part 1): Semi-Skimmed Milk

Semi-skimmed milk is said to be better for you than proper whole milk, but what’s the point if you need twice as much of it to taste anything?  (I can only imagine what skimmed milk is like).  

In the 1970s all school kids were issued a third of a pint of whole milk each day (silver top).  The bottles were kept in a crate in the classroom and dispensed by the teacher.  In those days, only the cranks and weirdos drank semi-skimmed.  What happened?  When did those of us who loyally stuck to our whole milk start to become the freaks? Mrs Thatcher was called “Mrs Thatcher, Milk Snatcher” when she stopped kids getting their daily milk, but if she was allowing milk in school today she’d be labelled a drug peddlar, along with the teachers who went along with it.  Funny how attitudes change.  Anyway, I don’t always drink silver top:  we connoisseurs know that the rich Channel Islands gold top is the tastiest.   

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