6 months on

Percy the London taxi has been with us for almost 6 months now and, as you may have read, he’s already had a few stories to share. With every passing month, there are fewer and fewer Fairway Drivers working the streets of our capital and Percy the ex London taxi caught a few strange looks the other day when he took use and Mimi the rabbit for a walk in Regent’s Park (dog free section), stopping on the way at the Oxfam on St. John’s Wood High Street to drop off some clothes.

Its probably not often you see a pet rabbit in a London taxi and even rarer a rabbit in a jumper, alone, in the passenger seats of a Fairway Driver. There were some very confused faces outside Percy’s windows that day while Nina was in the shop. I even heard one young lady asking her friend whether she thought the rabbit got into the taxi herself?! At that point, I turned round and asked Mimi “Where to madam?”

Mimi rabbit in fairway driver back seats

Percy is also rather jealous of Mimi’s celebrity-attracting exploits, her most famous of which was local St. John’s Wood legend, Sir Paul McCartney, who approached us while in the gardens of St. John’s Wood Church with his (we presumed) grandchildren to ask where we got the rabbit harness and lead from, as they also have pet rabbits and wanted to take them for walks too. (It was from Pets at Home by the way.) We think Percy needs to up his game. He’s only had random passers-by attempting to hail him and, in his retirement, he rather enjoys flicking his indicator and driving straight past them. I’m sure I can feel the Garrett Turbo system deliver a few extra horse power whenever Percy is running away from ‘Punters.’

For those who are interested, the reason Percy has a turbo system is not for drag races on Pall Mall, not that we would condone that (and he wouldn’t beat a 4-year-old on a wooden tricycle anyway). The turbo was installed by some taxi drivers when new emission laws ‘Euro III’ were passed several years ago, which meant Fairway Drivers that still wanted to ply their trade in London had to reduce their carbon emissions and one of the solutions was installing a turbo system that brings the emissions down to the legal limit.
So, a 2.7L turbo diesel engine sounds very impressive and it is – how many engines do you know that have done over 458,000 miles? However, it was certainly not designed for speed. What has helped it last so long is that it only revs to around 4000RPM maximum and probably only operates at around 2500RPM, especially with the overdrive engaged, so there’s far less stress to the engine.

Ex London taxis are also generally the best to own for private use, as the taxis have to pass a more rigorous test set by TfL (Transport for London) than those outside of London and therefore they are more likely to have been maintained at a higher standard. It doesn’t prevent the inherent rust, rattles and leaks that comes with a Fairway mind you.
Percy really is the perfect runaround and with so many helpful members of the LVTA ready to give us any advice and assistance, it really makes it a pleasure to own an ex London taxi.

Post Office

We arrived home to the dreaded red slip from Royal Mail on Friday (‘sorry, you were out’). So we had to go to our local delivery office (odd name given it’s a depot for UNDELIVERED post) to collect a parcel; some more crockery that Nina had bought to compliment the existing collection we have in the flat, which would rival any porcelain factory.

Royal Mail something for you red slip

It was raining and we were tired after a long day at work, and to be honest just felt plain lazy, so Percy it was. We drove 5 minutes up the road, over the dreaded Abbey Road zebra crossing where there’s always a queue of tourists re-enacting the Beatles album front cover. It’s a good job Percy’s horn doesn’t work, as he’s not very patient in his old age.

Having let a stream of wannabe Beatles perform their catwalks, and with half of London’s traffic now behind us, we were about to set off when one cheeky tourist put his hand out to stop us so that he could get Percy into his photo- two London icons in one shot.

We parked up and entered the smallest collection ‘depot’ I’ve ever seen. It was more like a confession booth. We squeezed in and Father Pat asked for our ticket, which he passed on to a hand under a tiny conveyor belt, not a moving one though mind you, so I’m not entirely sure what the point of it was.

While we waited for our parcel and refrained from confessing all our sins to Father Pat, an elderly gentlemen in a light hospital gown burst through the door and enquired ‘anything for me?’

Father Pat had clearly seen this man before as he had a resigned look on his face. ‘No, Derek, nothing for you today I’m afraid. I told you, you only need to come here if you get a red slip telling you we have a parcel for you.’

Derek was obviously disappointed and turned to leave the confession box and his parting gift was a full moon for us all. ‘He’s a regular, we can’t work out whether he’s from the care home next door or the hospital down the road.’

The hand finally came back across the stationary conveyor belt and we thanked Father Pat for our rattling parcel, which we subsequently discovered had become a porcelain puzzle set.

In any other circumstance we would probably have offered a lift to an elderly gentlemen on his way back to hospital or his care home but although Percy is very liberal with the dress-code of his passengers, Derek was perhaps a little under-dressed for Percy’s back seats to bare.

Day Out in Mickleham

On the bank holiday Saturday, we decided to go for a walk and pub lunch in the village of Mickleham in Surrey near Box Hill, which the London Olympic 2012 Road Race passed through. As my sister and her fiance are emigrating back to Hong Kong in a few months, we thought they’d enjoy a day out in the typical English countryside and some classic ‘pub grub’ before they leave, and of course the only mode of transport would be an ex London black cab.

Fairway Driver taxi and family The Running Horses

Having taken one of our regular follower’s advice on board, I checked Percy’s coolant level before we set off and as predicted he was indeed less than full, so he may have a slow leak somewhere or simply being parked on the slight slant the air has risen to the top. It didn’t take much to top him up and I’m not too worried about chasing a slow leak somewhere as we don’t use Percy everyday and having to top him up once every few weeks isn’t too much trouble. So I checked his steering fluid level, which is the other place that he has a slow leak, and topped it up only very slightly, as some steering stop-leak has really helped, as mentioned in a previous post.

We set off for the 35mile trip to Mickleham just before midday but the traffic around Putney was pretty bad and a journey which should take a little under an hour took almost one and a half.

Post Office sign Mickleham

The weather was also typically British- sunny spells scattered with intermittent showers. During one of these showers just after Putney bridge, we drove past a broken down vintage Aston Martin DB6. The gentlemen in his tailored suit and Church’s shoes had to get out and push his beloved Aston to the side of the road. It could’ve been an electrical problem as he didn’t even have his hazard lights on. I don’t know if people were in a hurry, but I didn’t see anyone getting out in the rain to help this gentlemen push his DB6. We deliberated whether it would’ve been different if it was a lady broken down in the rain in her Ford KA.

We are missing Percy’s horn a little since I accidentally cut the wiring. You soon realise that it’s vital equipment for driving in London, perhaps not as much as Delhi but you’d be surprised the number of people who don’t move when the lights are green because they’re using their mobile phone, or those who start straying into your lane randomly, or just cut you up. Flashing Percy’s lights at them just doesn’t have the same effect as a beeping horn. I even had to resort to shouting out of the window when a Renault started to veer into us (again, driver was using his mobile phone). To be fair the chap was quite apologetic, but then he probably thought annoying a London cabbie wasn’t a good idea…that’s until we drove past and he saw the daisy garden in the back shelf.

We arrived at the Running Horses pub in Mickleham (Surrey Dining Pub of the Year 2013) around 1.15pm. We were lucky enough to get the last table for lunch, which was perfectly cooked pub favourites – fish and chips, sausage and mash, braised lamb shank and pork belly.

Fairway Driver Taxi The Running Horses Mickleham

Percy attracting attention from drinkers

We walked off that over-stuffed feeling with a stroll over the rambling hills and picturesque village of Mickleham, before returning to the pub for some well-earned liquid refreshments.

Boxhill view looking towards Mickleham

Nina drove us home and the journey was much quicker, even around Knightsbridge, which was a surprise, as it usually passes for a giant carpark in the middle of a shopping mall rather well.

Fairway Tour Guide

Nina and I invited 2 of my colleagues and their husbands to ours for supper a couple of weeks ago. This presented me with the opportunity to make use of the cocktail shaker (Christmas present from my Step Father a million years ago) with some Cosmopolitans, and I also made a few Gin and Tonics for our guests. Nobody collapsed so it can’t have been that bad.

While Nina was warming the lovely Boeuf Bourguignon cooked the previous evening, adding the mushrooms and Chantenay carrots, I thought I’d show them Percy and take them for a quick tour of the local area.

At their requests, I also put the taxi meter on. Believe it or not, I hadn’t actually run with the meter on since we bought Percy, so it was new for me too, and I must say I really enjoyed watching it go up, but I would’ve enjoyed it more if I could actually charge for it!
Everybody got in, and they loved the cushions, rear shelf garden and daisy lights. They asked how much it was per mile, and I directed them to the price list still in the right hand passenger door.

I started the engine and turned onto St. John’s Wood Road to our first stop at Lords, the home of Cricket. One of my colleague’s husband is a huge cricket fan so he got out to take some pictures, as did I.

Fairway Driver Taxi outside Lord's Cricket Ground

We then continued down St. John’s Wood Road onto Lord’s roundabout and down Park Road, turning left onto Regent’s Park outer circle, admiring the huge white houses and the Regent’s Park lake, before turning into the inner circle past the tennis courts, briefly stopping at Chester Gate where Nina and I held the drinks reception for our wedding a few years ago.

Next stop was ZSL London Zoo, where again we stopped for pictures.

Fairway Driver Taxi London Zoo

The final stop was St. John’s Wood High Street, past the ‘Pavillion’ Cab Shelter, before we headed back home. The final ‘price’ on the meter was £18. Who said black cabs were expensive?! Especially considering there were 4 of them in the back. We went back to the flat for bread and olives, and scallops with pancetta and pea puree for starters, all lovingly prepared by Nina while we’d been on our tour. Followed by Boeuf Bourguignon with mash potato for mains, and lemon posset with strawberries and rabbit shaped shortbread (in honour of Mimi) for dessert.

Easter Themed Lemon Posset

The next day, Percy and I were called upon to collect Nina from Russell Square, it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, with crisp blue skies and not a cloud in sight. Like Batman and his Batmobile, Percy and I slung shot round Regent’s Park outer circle, past the hoards of waving members of the public to rescue my damsel in distress…. actually, it wasn’t quite like that. I took Mimi with us and put her in her soft travel ‘house’ in the passenger seats, put my flat cap and sunglasses on and we pootled along past I think what must have been 5 different groups of people trying to hail us along Regent’s park (they clearly didn’t see that I already had a passenger! Mind you she doesn’t pay, unless you count 270 rabbit droppings per day… yes we’ve counted), before getting stuck in a queue at the lights to cross Marylebone Road for what felt like an eternity before being told (on the hands free of course) that Nina was having a great time at the pub and pick her up from there please. But the first version sounded better in my head, so I’ll stick with that.

Mimi pet rabbit in Fairway Driver taxi

Once we collected the distressed damsel from the evil clutches of the College Arms on Store Street, we all went to the Secret Garden in Regent’s Park and Mimi in particular enjoyed the evening sunshine.