Monthly Archives: April 2016

Viz Top Tips

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the adult comic, Viz?  I’ve opened up a new comedy-writing front, and have posted some contributions I’ve made to their Top Tips page.  I hope you like them – though if you’ve never locked into the surreal, puerile, humour of Viz you’ll think I’ve tekken leave of my senses…


Avoid scandalous car parking charges in London. You can park all day unmolested by simply by enclosing your car with orange barriers next to road works.  Barriers can be hired from any builders’ yard, and delivered by lorry the same day.

Mr L. Buzzard, That London.


MOTORCYCLISTS.  In order to gain attention, why not sit at the traffic lights revving your engine needlessly?  For maximum irritation, wait in the advance cycle zone in order to obstruct cyclists and intimidate pedestrians.

Mr L. Buzzard, Bedfordshire.


LONDON TOUR BUS DRIVERS.  Why not drive 5mph slower than regular buses?  This way, your passengers can experience a traditional British traffic jam, while watching a long line of irate drivers queuing behind you.  Make sure your passengers wave as they take their photos.

Mr L.Buzzard, Bedfordshire.


Make your neighbours think you have a high level job with the government by ostentatiously looking under your car every morning with a mirror on a stick.

Mr L. Buzzard, Bedfordshire.


Make people think you’ve just returned from an expensive long-haul holiday.  Just wrap an old suitcase in cling film and wheel it around town.

Mr L. Buzzard, Bedfordshire.


Eat your heart out, William Shakespeare!


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Boris v Obama

I didn’t expect myself to be on the side of London’s lovable moptop mayor in this one, but how dare the US president threaten to put us at the back of the queue for trade agreements should we leave the EU?  Somehow I can’t imagine the US selling their sovereignty to join a North American federation with Canada and Mexico (let alone the rest of the continent of America).  Free borders with their southern neighbours?  I don’t think so.

What do the USA export to us anyway, apart from re-runs of Frasier?

I hope the Queen gives him a piece of her mind before he goes home.  And stops the USA receiving Downton Abbey.


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Plastic Money

In September a new polymer £5 note will be issued.  I wonder if TfL have anything to do with this?  After all, they’re insisting we accept plastic.  If the bank note turns up with a picture of Boris on it we’ll know for sure.

Of course, plastic money by way of credit cards is the real talking point here.  Many of us broadly accepted mandatory credit card acceptance when it was first flagged up.  We have to accept credit cards in order to compete; and while we didn’t like being told how to run our businesses, it didn’t seem worth opposing the proposal.   We assumed we’d be given clear, sensible, guidance, and time to plan things.  But TfL were making it up as they went along and the whole shebang was rushed through before the interested parties got their heads around it all.  As soon as they secured our acceptance, they brought in laws that were due to start well before we were ready; some of them in April.  It’s now April, and those of us affected by the rulings still aren’t sure what’s happening.

At first we were told we could charge 3% for processing a card.  That seemed reasonable as I believe the 10% I was forced to charge before April was too much (it used to be 12.5%).  But we could see we were going to be at the mercy of the companies who supply the equipment, and that we’d probably break even at best.  A 20p meter flag fall rise wouldn’t go far should the suppliers charge us more than 3%.  We were then told we could make zero charge, so we’d definitely lose out.  Who are TfL doing this for?  If the 20p meter flag fall rise was brought in purely to help us, it’s unfair to customers who prefer to pay by cash the old-fashioned way.

Another ruling rushed through said we needed to have the card reader installed within the passenger compartment by October.  My reader sits proudly by my side, away from grubby fingers.  It works perfectly well, so why should it be moved?  This is going to be a lot of work for the radio circuits, and a lot of inconvenience for its drivers.  Spare a thought too for those drivers who removed their printers when they were no longer deemed necessary.  Those drivers are going to have to arrange to have them re-installed.  We don’t have to have card readers connected to the meter, but that rule is likely to come in next year.  That will be more inconvenience for many drivers.

I still find it ridiculous you can’t buy a bus ticket with cash, and I don’t see why we should be used as another disruptive experiment in “modernisation.”  Banks don’t process card payments for free, so someone has to pay the inevitable fee.  If someone has to pay, it should be the customer.  I can’t help thinking we’ve been railroaded into this one.  Left to our own devices, most of us would decide it’s time to accept plastic eventually.  But the rulings are disruptive for those of us who already accept plastic.

As consumers, we’ve happily allowed ourselves to become part of a credit-based society.   Credit card payment started as a convenience if you had no cash on you.  Employers started to pay their staff through bank accounts and credit card use grew.  We knew we’d be charged handsomely should we use a card to pay for theatre or travel tickets, though that’s offset by having some protection should things go wrong.  Sometimes we pay through the nose for the insurance element.  We’re now in a society where credit card machines sit invitingly by the tills in coffee shops.   Personally, I’d be embarrassed about paying for a small item on a card.  Last summer I cringed when a friend of mine paid for half a cider in a Berkhamsted pub, though the bar staff seemed to consider it normal.  People like us who are still paid in cash are looked upon with suspicion, as if we’re illegal immigrants doing something underhand.

Maybe it’ll all settle down after October when things are implemented fully.  Perhaps the banks will compete with each other and we won’t lose out too much.  The trade press are already carrying adverts in which card equipment suppliers are competing for our custom.  It’s likely we’ll be able to pay lower fees once things get established.  It might all turn out all right, as when our customers know that all taxis accept cards and that there are no costs for doing so, it should make us more attractive.

All this is an inconvenience for those of us who already accept plastic, and it’s probably frightening for those drivers who currently only accept cash.  In a year’s time, though, we’ll probably have forgotten the way it was all rushed in, and we might welcome the extra string to our bow.

Copyright: Chris Ackrill, April 2016.

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Carry On At Your Convenience


With public toilet facilities declining, and more reports of anti-social toilet-related behaviour, it’s clear that the professional driver has a problem accessing toilet facilities during their work day.

In the week that I decided to tackle this thorny subject, I was forced to witness a most disturbing demonstration of public toileting.  As I waited on the rank at Jermyn Street, by Haymarket, a man approached the temporary loo on the corner.  It wasn’t an enclosed booth, but one of those open-view stand-up pissoirs that they put up on projected high-alcohol weekends.  He proceeded to unzip himself and took a pee, just a few yards from my cab and right in my line of view.  Not wishing to witness the full horror of this spectacle I busied myself with checking my ComCab screen; just noting enough for the purposes of this article.  It was a thoroughly unpleasant sight at 6pm at a busy West End junction.  I wondered what the good, unsuspecting, burghers, of St James would think as they go about their honest business; or visitors passing by, hoping to soak up the glamour and sophistication of the capital.  I also wondered what my account customer would think, should he emerge from his office at this moment.  The event was not only totally legal, but encouraged by the presence of these awful toilet stalls.  What has this country come to?  (and what a job it must be for the people unloading these contraptions!).

Maybe I shouldn’t have been offended?  I do tend to be caught out by modern practices that would have been considered disgraceful in my younger days:  wearing pyjamas to go to the shops is one recent practice.  Toileting in public on a busy West End street is another.  My first thought was, there was no need for it.  Any pedestrian caught short can try a pub, café, or coffee shop.  Confident folk might even try to get past a hotel doorman.  I doubt all of these establishments would let non-customers use their facilities, but I’d imagine most would be sympathetic.

It’s more difficult for us drivers because we have parking restrictions to consider.  Regency Place looks a good place to park for a few minutes, but as many cab drivers have found out, they are watching you.  A friend of mine had his number taken there very recently.  Westminster Council would probably deny employing stealth taxing, but they’ve been targeting people for several years by the Iron Lung – one of the few remaining free toilets in Central London.  If Westminster parking spooks want to do something useful, they could help clear the vans and mini-cabs from Bond Street.

Many public toilets are only open in the daytime, and there are plans to close some down completely, according to consultancy notices I’ve seen around.  If you find one open, you often have to pay.  While I understand this, I still kind of resent paying for health and hygiene while I’m serving the great public of London (I’m also offended when I’m on a day out to London and I have to pay to use the toilets at Euston after paying a king’s ransom for a train ticket).

Without adequate facilities, we will continue to hear about taxi drivers dumping bottles full of urine in residential streets, and of Uber drivers using people’s gardens around Heathrow as toilets.  Disgusting behaviour, but London councils should do more to help people whose work involves driving around all day, scared to stop moving.  Taxi drivers are understandably concerned with their own situation, but the lack of facilities for private hire drivers is probably worse, as they have no official rest ranks.  It all contributes to an unpleasant and unhealthy environment.  People don’t generally pee for fun – though I understand some people use toilet cubicles for fun.

I don’t think I’m being controversial in saying that cab driving doesn’t tend to be a young person’s game.  There must be quite a few drivers with bladder and bowel problems, and holding it in can bring on urinary tract problems.

Councils will say it’s all about money, but they really need to keep their public toilets open, particularly if TfL are licensing 700 mini-cab drivers every week.

My research shows there’s a Community Toilet Scheme (CTS) in operation, where participating bars, shops and restaurants provide free access to their facilities during trading hours.  I’ve not seen any businesses with stickers promoting this, but it’s a good move.  Some coffee shops keep their toilets locked and you have to ask for a code at the counter, but at least there are plenty of them around these days.  I can see why some places are reluctant to oblige, because some people are messy, and some vandalise toilets for fun.  I think the best we can do at present is identify places where we can park safely for a few minutes, and find somewhere that looks user-friendly.  If we can’t slip in and out unnoticed, then ask politely.

As a humorous footnote, five minutes after witnessing the public peeing, a man walked his dog up to the toilet and let it do its business.  Open plan toilets for dogs are one thing, but please, not for people.  That’s taking the piss.


Copyright:   Chris Ackrill, 2016.

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Unsuccessful on This Occasion (Again)

Failed the Assessment to become a mini-cab topographic test assessor; despite over a year as a Knowledge examiner, 10 years relevant experience as a careers adviser, and two degrees.  All that counts as nothing when you can’t put patterned boxes in order. They’re discriminating against the sort of people who can’t work out Rubik Cubes. What next?  Rejecting people who can’t see pictures in those coloured dot puzzles from the 80s?  TfL? I piss on ’em.

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