‘Percy, Percy!’

I almost forgot we had a blog it’s been so long since our last post! Life appears to be moving at a hundred miles an hour. We hope everyone has had a lovely Easter break and enjoying the warm spring sunshine and longer evenings. Cold, dark, winter nights finally behind us!

Percy has been ageing (rusting) gracefully, with very little issues. We may have developed a slow puncture in the rear left tyre, and he might have a leak from the sunroof, or just the roof, after Nina spotted a small puddle of water on a plastic bag in the front passenger side area after a night of heavy rain. However, there were no wet marks on the ceiling and it didn’t leak when we were driving in rain. Hopefully it was some sort of condensation or the sunroof was left ajar.

Other than that and a few rust holes being a few centimeters bigger now, I can scarcely believe this 23 year old work horse is not far off the condition we first bought him in a few years ago.

We spent the Easter break in Tunbridge Wells, with Percy fully loaded with what felt like all our earthly possessions but he made the 55 miles journey without fuss.

We had lunch at the Mark Cross Inn on Monday and having parked up, an elderly gentleman seemed intrigued by Percy. He asked if he was an ex London taxi and what mileage he had done. I told him roughly 463,000 miles, and he said he didn’t believe me, so I opened the door to the driver’s seat and asked him to see for himself. He looked and said ‘no, really? wait, let me see again,’ and I’m not kidding, he got his magnifying glass out of his pocket (people still carry these around?), looked again and said ‘463,000 miles?! it really doesn’t look like it’s done that many miles,’ but I assured him it has, and that Percy doesn’t sound like he’s done that many miles as the engine is very sound, but if he looked at the chasis and bodywork (even without magnifying glasses) he could definitely see the mileage.

The problem with owning and driving a black taxi in London when you have a baby, who is just learning to speak, is that your taxi just becomes like any other to them.
Baby on Fairway Driver Taxi bonnet

Nina was walking with Cabette from her nursery to the bus stop when they passed a taxi rank by Hammersmith tube station. There was a black TX2 parked up at the rank, and Cabette walked over pointing at it saying ‘Percy, Percy,’ and the driver asked if she wanted to get in. Nina had to interject and explain that we drive a taxi and that Cabette thinks it’s her taxi.

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I have a feeling this won’t be the last time this happens! There are almost 40,000 working black cabs in London I believe. That’s a lot of Percys!

Fairway in town

Hope everyone has had a good Christmas and New Year.
Fairway driver taxi christmas wreath
It’s been a hectic past few weeks with Christmas and Cabbette’s birthday so close together.

Percy has been quite busy too, taking us to grandparents in Tunbridge Wells and back, a friends birthday lunch in Knebworth, and nephew’s birthday party in Epsom. He’s been reliable as ever throughout if a little cold.

He passed his MOT with no advisories too!

I renewed his insurance with Peter Best insurance on 3000 miles fully comp and a commute to one place of work and breakdown cover for a little over £200. We only drove 1900 miles last year so that should be plenty.

With Cabette taking up much of our focus and rightly so, Percy has had to play second fiddle, including rocking last year’s Christmas decorations. I simply haven’t had time to even notice any new decorations for him.

Fairway Driver Christmas bauble

He’s quite a celebrity on our street now though, so it’s good to know that he puts a smile on people’s faces when they come home.

Speaking of commuting to work, I’ve been cycling to and from work 8 miles away everyday since we moved to West London, and I’ve never seen the roads so quiet as today, so I will continue to enjoy the quiet but cold commute.

Although I managed to wrangle a parking space from building security for New Year’s Eve, when I took Percy, as I was collecting Cabette from nursery in the afternoon. I wouldn’t normally even consider driving given the traffic and congestion charge, but there was hardly any traffic (at least in comparison to a normal working week in central London) and congestion charge is suspended between Christmas and New Year, so I took full advantage. I did have to warn security that I drive a London taxi so when they see me on CCTV at the gates, not to think it’s just a cabby turning, but to let me into the undercroft.

It was the smoothest drive into town, 25 minutes into Holborn, with the A4, Knightsbridge, Shaftsbury Avenue all virtually empty. I did get some interesting looks from people as I’m sure there aren’t many Fairways that are in town very often now.

And as I left reception to the undercroft, the building security lady told me she’s been inspired to get a taxi having seen Percy!

Milestones

It was my 30th a few weeks ago and Nina and I hired the Skittle Alley in The Black Lion pub near Hammersmith to celebrate with some friends and family.

Nina was in charge of the decorations and bought 2 large balloons (3 and 0, naturally) and several other bits like napkins. Cabette loved holding onto the balloons but I didn’t trust her not to let go during the 15 minute walk to the pub. We also packed enough toys (the size of a tuck box!) to keep her entertained throughout the day so Percy it was!

30th birthday balloons in fairway driver taxi

A colleague of mine used to bring cakes that her Mother had baked into the office, and they were always delicious, so I asked her if her Mum would mind baking me my birthday cake if I paid her. I was very fortunate she said yes, because the end result was a delicious and above all a visual surprise! I was expecting a Madeira sponge with white icing and possibly Happy 30th iced onto it.

Fariway Driver Taxi birthday cake

It also tasted as good as it looked!

It was also time for Percy’s MOT last week which meant a trip to the all knowing cab driver and mechanic Danny in Walthamstow. It’s a bit of a trip for us now that we live in Chiswick, but leaving bright and early in the morning on Saturday meant that there was barely any traffic.

Danny gave Percy the once over and tightened a loose front left wheel bearing, then it was off round the corner to Ian’s garage for the MOT. I chatted to him about motorbikes as he has 8 and although I had sold mine I’m still fond of them.

Once back at Danny’s to have the battery isolator switch fitted to Percy, another Fairway pulled up behind Percy and a gentlemen called Alastair came over and said he recognised Percy from this blog.

I got chatting to Alastair from Lewisham who along with his wife also own their Fairway for leisure, but were having issue with it’s temperamental approach to starting, hence he was at Dannys.
While chatting, I discovered a very unusual feature of Alastair’s Fairway, a rear electric sunroof! from a Renault Twingo. I’m also rather jealous of the wooden steering wheel…

Fairway Driver Taxi rear sunroof

New Home

We’ve been rather busy over the past few months, hence the lack of posts. We have moved away from St. John’s Wood in North West London to leafy Chiswick in West London. Percy has of course come with us and is happily parked on the street outside our flat.
Percy has been wonderfully reliable this summer if a little bit warm inside. He has been ideal for moving the mountain of belongings we’ve built up over the past 5 years. We did several trips to the charity shops, and I did many return trips to the new flat to paint it, ready for Nina and Cabette.

We must have done 6 return trips all fully laden with bags and boxes, and even then we still needed a large transit van to move the rest of our belongings to the new flat.

Fairway Driver Chiswick

We are settling into our new flat and area nicely, and although I used to work round the corner there are still many places to explore. We haven’t needed Percy much recently due to our explorations on foot, so I’ve bought a battery isolator switch to add to the negative terminal in the battery and it just makes it much easier to disconnect the battery with a twist of the wheel, as opposed to having to loosen the connection everytime with a small wrench or pliers.

Percy also has a new side kick, Clarke. He’s a monstrous jump starter (Clarke 4000) for car batteries. I believe it starts petrol engines up to 6 litres and diesel engines up to 4.5 litres. What was rather amusing was that Nina passed the local funfair today and saw a Clarke attached to some leads of a ferris wheel. So if anyone needs to jump start a fire engine or power a ferris wheel, get a Clarke!

I was driving Percy to see a friend in Brixton yesterday when half way through a corner the steering went very heavy and I heard a snap in the engine area. It was the alternator belt and it was shredded.
I pulled up and crawled under Percy to get as much of the shredded belt as I could out and got 2 replacement belts from the boot (he has two belts, one to run the alternator and the other to operate the power steering pump). I tried for the life of me to fit them but it’s very similar to the last stage of replacing your bicycle tyre where you need thumbs of steel to push the final part of the rubber tyre over the rim but on a bigger scale. I completely failed and swore profanely at Percy.
I gave up and called the AA and even then it took both myself and the AA man to fit the belts, with him turning the engine from underneath Percy and me pushing the belt in while he spun the cam slowly to get the belt over the it.

We came back from a holiday in Spain last week, and having parked up at the local supermarket, we walked past a rather familiar sight.

rear of fairway driver taxi in mercadona carpark benitachell spain

fairway driver taxi in mercadona benitachell spain

I have no idea how the owner managed to drive it without melting, because it was probably 35 degrees celsius and I’d bet that the heating is stuck on like Percys. Still, I’m sure he enjoyed driving it in Spain, but I definitely wouldn’t dream of driving Percy to Spain, especially in the summer. He is barely comfortable in a 25 degree British ‘heatwave!’

Day out in Greenwich

It’s been a very busy few months, with flat hunting and a rapidly developing Cabbette, hence the dearth of posts recently.

People always say your life changes when you have children, and not just the big things like needing a bigger flat/house or starting to save for nursery etc, but your daily life. A good example was Friday night. Towards the end of the working day, conversations in the office turned to ‘what are people doing tonight?’ with lots going out to eat or meeting friends for drinks before moving onto a club somewhere in Soho or Clapham, but me? I was off to Asda for some disposable changing mats because they were on offer and we were running low. In fact, I’d driven to the Asda in Park Royal (about 6 miles away) when there were 2 Sainsburys and 2 Waitroses closer to home because the mats were on offer in Asda. I genuinely wouldn’t change it for the world though. I just find the contrast with my similarly aged colleagues amusing, but then Nina and I have done all that over the past few years. The traffic wasn’t bad for a Friday night though and I enjoyed the drive in Percy, he felt much swifter without Nina or Cabbette in the back, but don’t tell them that.

I’d always been a fan of Greenwich Park, since I wandered through it when waiting for Nina and my sister while they were at a wedding show in the nearby Excel centre. And with the beautiful weather on the weekend, we decided to take Cabbette with us for a visit. She’s starting to pay more attention to her surroundings now so we debated whether it was time to ditch the aircraft carrier attachment (carrycot) and install the seat, but she was still a little small for the seat so we kept the aircraft carrier for a little longer.

Paul and Stokke in Greenwich

It was also Percy’s first longish run for a little while, and it was a very pleasant journey in the morning sunshine and quiet roads (difficult to believe I know). I even had to open the driver compartment windows, not without reaching under the steering column to pinch the wire for the windows to actually work. We found a parking space right at the top of Greenwich Park by the Observatory, and I quickly assembled the aircraft carrier before we took a lovely stroll around the grounds.

Fairway Driver London Taxi Greenwich Observatory

We played with Cabbette on the grass and Nina fed her, before we wandered towards the Cutty Sark, while deciding what to have for lunch. We came to the conclusion that a sit-down lunch in a restaurant in the sunshine, tempting though it was, was probably not going to last with Cabbette teething.

Stokke Xplory Cutty Sark

So, it was a footlong Subway for me and Fish and Chips to go for Nina. We took it back to the top of Greenwich Park and were eating it on the grass, enjoying the views over London, when the wind started to pick up and Cabbette was having nature blown into her eyes, so we decided to finish our food ‘inside’ and simply sat in the back of Percy. Nina and Cabbette in the back seats and me on one of the fold-down seats. We got some interesting looks from people who were trying to find somewhere to finish their lunch out of the wind. I’ve been meaning to find a small fold up picnic table to go in the back of Percy to complete the ‘dining room’ but have yet to find a suitable size.

Nina and Dilly in Greenwich

We will be moving flats next week, so Percy should come in very handy for the move. I’m so confident that he can do most of it, I’ve only hired a van for a couple of hours to do the large furniture, with then intention of Percy doing the rest (bags and boxes).

Box of tricks

I took Percy to Carl at Globe Transmissions a few weeks ago for a diagnosis on his gearbox problem and I wasn’t expecting good news.

On the way to Bethnal Green, Percy’s gearbox actually got gradually better, starting to change gear automatically and dropping the funny business of pulling away in third or refusing to change from first. In fact, it improved so much that I was tempted to turn back and go home, but I knew it was a temporary reprieve and the problems would probably return once I got home.

Carl took off the sump and it wasn’t good, the fluid was clearly burnt and there were bits of metal swimming around in the tray. Percy needs a ‘new’ (reconditioned) gearbox. It was either a reconditioned box from Carl or looking around for a second hand one from garages and ebay, but I’m very risk averse and wouldn’t touch an ebay gearbox with a barge poll… you never know what the condition of a second hand gear box from another 20 year old taxi is going to be like. So, we stumped up the cash for a box from Carl, which was actually very reasonable.

I got the sense that Carl and Elsa much prefer to work on old gearboxes like ours, as Elsa was explaining to me that newer cabs now need laptops plugged in to diagnose the problem, and she was having a hard time explaining to a customer that he needed to resolve other problems with his cab that were not related to the gearbox, in order for the warning light on his dashboard to disappear.

I left Percy in Carl’s safe hands and returned a week later to collect him. Carl took me for a test drive to show off his handy work and the box was smooth as velvet and he had even installed a kick down switch for us, which we didn’t have before. He also tried to replace Percy’s speedometer cable for us, as it rattles in the cold and leaves your exact speed as a bit of a guess, but he didn’t have a new cable so he just tightened and straightened it for us instead for free. How kind.

So, Percy lives on….

Short but not sweet

If we decide to go anywhere in Percy, I always try to remember to start him first before we go through the process of folding the spacepram and the carseat/seatbelt operation, mostly because I’m probably subconsciously expecting him not to start.

One Sunday, I got complacent and strapped Cabette in and folded the spacepram before I turned the key in the ignition. Several attempts later I gave up, with the 2.7 diesel still dormant.

I think this is the fourth time we’ve had to call out a roadside rescue service to jump start Percy but on this occasion it wasn’t down to us leaving any lights on. I realised that the majority of his journey, especially over the past few weeks, have been very short indeed.

HSBC roadside recovery was very good though and with a 2 month old ‘in the car’ (we were actually at home) they sent someone out straight away and were with us in 30 minutes.

So, thanks to Olympic Recovery, Percy was back up and running but we had to take him for a run to charge up the battery, and this time not just another 6 mile round trip in traffic.

We decided somewhere about an hours drive away should suffice and I found a suitable pub, The Chequers Inn near Aylesbury, in a village called Weston Turville.

It was a beautifully sunny day and a pleasant drive with no traffic. We didn’t stay for food but agreed we’d return to sample it at a later date, as the restaurant and menu looked good.

Stokke Xplory in Fairway Driver Taxi

After a drink and confident that the battery was fully charged we made our way back to London after a pleasant day out. However, I started to notice that Percy’s gears were slipping again, this time in 3rd (top) gear, with a sensation that the gearbox just wasn’t transferring the power to the wheels, especially uphill. We know the gearbox is on it’s last legs but it handles slow city driving and multiple gear changes just fine. I guess its achilles is full power hill climbs, which I’m sure was what killed it last time.

When we got back to London, Percy decided second gear was overrated and that going from first to third is much more fun, and I could definitely smell burnt transmission fluid. Then what he thought would be even more useful was to use third gear while performing a U-Turn. Luckily, that was to park up and we haven’t tried him again yet. Fingers crossed Percy starts next time and if he does, he uses sensible gear choices.