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.


R.I.P Mimi the Rabbit

Sadly, over the weekend, we were grieving the loss of our pet rabbit Mimi. She passed away suddenly, having had a seizure in her hutch at home. I took her to the emergency vet’ hospital in Belsize Park but, having battled valiantly for 3 hours, she breathed her last breath at 11pm. She was 4 years old.
Nina and I had been living in our rented flat (in a portered block that we’d had our eye on ever since we moved to London) for a year when Nina asked me one day if we could get a pet rabbit. I’d had one when I was a child and agreed that they made ideal pets- easy to maintain, docile and unbelievably cute! However, our building has a no pet policy (shhh) and I didn’t think we really needed a pet in our life, rabbit or not.
Shortly after this conversation, I returned home after work one day and found a rabbit hutch in the living room, already assembled and painted to match the walls, and a grey rabbit kitten hiding on a cushion in a straw house in the corner.
grey baby pet rabbit kitten
Mimi was impossibly cute at that age and would lick your face if you laid down to play with her, something she continued to do all her life. Because we played with her at such a young age and let her roam around the flat, she was very tame and putting a harness and (pink) lead on her was much easier and painless than people would believe. Her favourite place for a walk was Rembrandt Gardens by Paddington Basin and Warwick Avenue, where she loved running round and round the rose garden.
Rabbit in grass


Grey rabbit wearing sunglasses in bag


Grey rabbit wearing Christmas jumper surrounded by autumn leaves




Mimi was very well travelled too. Since we bought Percy she’s been on many days out with us. She’d travel with us when we visited my parents in Bath or to Tunbridge Wells for Nina’s parents, and she was definitely loved at both households- my Mum would walk her in the garden with the neighbours looking on in amusement. She even has her own portrait photo inside Percy, just above the storage box in the centre of the driver’s compartment, where insurance certificates from the previous owner were once displayed.

Rabbit on Fairway Driver bumper
She also travelled by bicycle for shorter journeys…
Rabbit in basket on Boris Bike
She always attracted a crowd when she was out for a walk, mostly children wanting to stroke her, some well behaved and some not so well behaved but she was always calm and accommodating, never biting or scratching anyone, she wasn’t that kind of rabbit. She did become a bit of a mini local celebrity in her own right, with people approaching us and saying ‘I’ve heard about you’!
Rabbit in basket on St Johns Wood sign
After long walks we would let her sit in her favourite place-  the left arm rest of the sofa, next to the radiator- and sometimes she’d jump down and lie next to us while we watched TV.
Rabbit sitting on sofa
Mimi was also very useful for eating any vegetable peelings, favourites including carrots, grapes and pears. The afternoon before she died, we took her and Cabette for a walk in the beautiful sunshine in Regent’s Park along the boating lake. Mimi was full of energy and enthusiasm, hopping almost the entire length of the lake. Afterwards, we put her in her basket on the pram and pushed both girls home. We took what would be the last photo of her.
Mimi riding on Stokke pram
She brought a huge amount of joy to our lives and will be sorely missed but we’d like to think she lived a good and happy life with us.
It’s a shame that our daughter will never get a chance to properly meet Mimi and take hold of that pink lead.
rabbit in chinese dress

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Rabbit riding London Taxi

Mimi Lau; 2010-2014