Who is this Jackcabnory......

London Cab Driver, part-time Singer, micro/macro blogger, runner and primary school teacher in the making.....

Monday, 15 October 2012

Maximum Break

Dear Reader, it's been too long, and I'm sorry.

Too long, 147 days too long. Or over 200k minutes.

Since my last post, not since I saw my mother, or did a good deed.  

It's not been uneventful, I've reached a mini milestone on the path towards teaching, having achieved an A* in my English GCSE (amidst a sand storm on the grading of said exams) which I resat in May.

I did drop the study after the examination, which quickly ran into the summer period, where working schedules had to be adjusted to suit the boys being home.  Typically Mrs J would finish work at 2pm then come home and we'd perform the age old square dance of parental hand over..... I would then venture into the abyss that was London during the XXX Olympiad.  Seriously, they threw the bathwater out with the baby, if you catch my drift.  Hands up if you were a good Olympic-goer and actually spent some of your time and money in the other part of town that existed beyond St Pancras, and the fabulous Javelin train.

I had a few lucky breaks over the summer, and was very grateful to Emma Mulqueeny for the opportunity to be involved with Young Rewired State "Festival of Code" in Birmingham, a really inspiring endeavour for the yoof of today.

We'd decided to stay put for most of the summer, but we did grab a long weekend with some tweet pals in Roose Point, near Cardiff.  An absolutely beautiful part of the world, really enjoyed NOT driving. We took the train, much more relaxing. 

On the subject of Olympics......we did get to the stadium to watch the Paralympic athletics on the Wednesday evening, we were very excited and it was lovely to meet up briefly before hand with Tanni Grey-Thompson, who I met through work and have become very friendly with.  She was mobbed once spotted, and after having obligatory photos taken, had a quick chat before she had to get back to the commentary box.

September rolled round and school resumed, our eldest is no longer the small fish in the pond, now in year 8.   No 2 has started in a new primary school, we thought long and hard before making the change, but we felt he needed to move on for reasons I'm sure you'll understand (if you're a parent, hey maybe if you're not).

Right, I'm in need of a shower (cast your eyes up and to the right) just been for a run, in the pursuit of my other small challenge over the next 6 months, a place in the 2013 Virgin London Marathon!

Monday, 21 May 2012

The writer..... A short story

The door opened into the dusty reception room.  The lady that emerged was equally dishevelled.  Mrs Sinha was a petit woman, standing only 5ft 1 inches from floor to the ends of her wispy greying hair.  It had been a full five minutes since I had first knocked on the door, waiting patiently for someone to respond.  I was waiting to discover what this, unimposing to the eye, yet formidable literary agent thought of my manuscript.

I had been labouring away at it for hours; many, many hours to be precise.  If you took these hours and strung them end to end, they’d reach the moon!  Oh hang on, that’s not the metaphor I was aiming for.  Hopefully you’ll catch my drift. (Slightly better that one).  So I was very anxious to know what Mrs Sinha, the renowned agent for bestsellers; “Find me the head of Balthazar Speranza”; “All the worlds an onion”; and “Meatballs - an opus,” would think of my work.  I had called it simply, “Labyrinthian tales.”

Fantastically epic in it’s title, I had written a tale of two medieval protagonists.  Each vying for the love of a dusty maiden.  Lucius Renoy and Horatio Formitude.  I painted a very detailed picture for the reader, giving plenty of illustrative descriptions of the castles and landscapes the story is played out against.  I had devoured all manner of historical tomes in order to make the story as authentic as possible in its’ fabric.

Mrs Sinha beckoned me through to her office.  “Sit down my dear, you look awful.”

“Well I am a little nervous,” I replied “your reputation does go before you.”

“That’s, er,” and then she paused, reinforcing my earlier comment.  I knew she was prone to being painfully truthful. “Very interesting, but really I’m a pussy cat.”

“Your story is marvellous.” Relief! “I really think we have something to work with.”  She then proceeded to heap praise on my work.  We agreed that we would meet again over the next few weeks to formulate some ideas.  Just to ‘polish’ some areas of the plot she felt needed a bit more shine.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Challenge

“It’s 5 o’clock,” whispered Harry.  “Yes, I know.” Came the reply from the confused bus driver. Harry had fallen asleep on the N85 routemaster as it wended its way through town. He had been with friends for a party in The Ram, and had stumbled onto the night bus; Knowing there wasn’t much time left until the day.  The day when he would face his fears and abseil down the largest building in London. The Shard.  Couldn’t they have called it something a little less dramatic he thought? He had enough on his mind, without worrying that the hand stitched climbing rope might somehow be affected by the cutting name of the building.

It stood 900 ft on the south side of the river. Pointing skyward, with gleaming glass windows. Hardly the best surface for walking down.  Harry was to be among the first group of people to participate in this charitable exercise, scaring himself witless in order to raise £600 for Cancer Research.

 Today was the first time he had allowed himself to get worked up about what lay ahead.  Up until now his focus had been the great cause, how much it meant to him and the value of the work the charity does.  His mother had died of throat cancer 3 years ago, and he knew how vital research was in conquering this disease.

The training had been very thorough.  Starting in a classroom, where all the safety measures were explained, he was shown the equipment that would be used; and the techniques, from the experts, that would ensure safe descent.

When the day arrived, he looked out and was pleased the weather forecasters had got it so wrong.  Blue skies and a very light breeze were different to the rain and gale force winds expected. As the train pulled into the station, he could see it.  Towering so high that, as so often happens with tall buildings, he felt like he was falling backwards when he raised his eyes to the very pinnacle.

A final pep talk was given by the instructors and a handshake, wave and hugs from friends and family who had gathered to witness proceedings.

The journey up 80 floors was made via two separate lifts.  The first from ground to 44, then a second for the final 36.  The feeling was indescribable.  Harry exited the lift. It was time to secure his harness and prepare for lift off! Or more appropriately, let down.  The wind was much stronger at this height, Harry felt extremely cautious as he was lowered into the desired position for descent, roughly 90 degrees out from the glass fa├žade.

The first few tentative steps seemed to last an eternity, but probably lasted only seconds. He kept listening to the instructors talking him through the ordeal and before he knew it was within feet of the pavement; “Come on fella,” came a cheer from the crowd, “nearly there.”

And then, touch down! He’d done it.  He hugged his dad and brothers, hoping that somewhere his mum was doing a jig in happy celebration of his achievement.

Next time, he thought, I’ll do a sponsored silence.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A tale of two decibels


Serene.  Look it up in the dictionary and it will tell you it means “clear and calm, placid and unperturbed.”  This is a broad description of my dining room.  It may seem simplistic, but when it’s not overrun with people; eating and drinking, doing homework or arguing, it is an extremely calm place.  I think it is here where I can sit and read, sometimes write and feel at ease.  This room signifies a lot of what I have achieved.  My wife and partner of 18 years, our children who have grown up so far and continue to do so.  They are all here when I sit and think, perhaps not physically, but it is only momentary.  They will return today from work and school respectively.  

This room is not much to look at, aesthetically unfinished.  But it is completely full of memories; Good and bad, happy and sad. Lyrical phrases like “Silence is golden” come to mind, but they’re right. My eyes do see.


“Four-oh-Seven!”  The eastern European waitress shouts for the third time.  It is not unusual for this to be the case at the little known portacabin secreted at the back of a disused petrol station in Waterloo.  The number refers to a the raffle ticket we customers are issued when we make our order for food.  This cafe, approximately 30 metres by 15, is busy most days of the week. Filled with London cab drivers, who whilst earning a crust will stop to eat one.  The hustle and bustle starts in the kitchen with staff sharing jokes with the regulars.  They, the regulars, then take their seats alongside their pals.  Conversations are frenetic and often revolve around fares of interest, family tales and, inevitably, the ridicule of each other.  All done with a rye smile and knowing look.

The cacophony of noise is elevated further by when viewing the TV screens that show rolling sports coverage. Expletives pepper the air, but this is to be expected when the subjects of derision and triumph are teams that have been lifelong obsessions for the patrons.  The food is good, the sporting results not always so, but the sense of kinship is palpable, without fail.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

New app...new toy

So, a little bit of back story to bring you up to date before this one starts.

My lovely family bought me an iPad for my recent fortieth (yeah, I kept that quiet didn't I.....!) and it has brought me much joy.  As much as any inanimate object can. All the regular things, email, tweeting, emailing, browsing.

I've long held a desire to do some painting, call it the creative being in me.  I've always fancied myself splurging out on a bit of canvas. Expressing the inner Picasso or Turner.

Well, be still my beating heart. Along comes Paper, a nifty drawing, painting, sketching tool, which is quite simply, the dogs doo dahs.

It puts the ability to sketch, rub out, and also to rewind, enabling even the most clumsy doodler to ape the styles of anyone from Lowry (as suggested by one tweet pal today), to Larrson, Matt Groening etc etc.

I've peppered this post with a couple of my efforts. I'm hooked!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

New England

Before we got married, my wife and I visited a friend in the US. We planned the trip online, booking accommodation in two other areas (a small town in Vermont and also in Kennebunkport in Maine) wanting to see as much of New England as we could. Arriving at Heathrow for our flight, we were excited about the trip ahead.

With the twelve hour flight completed, we stepped off the plane and met Judd, our friend, in arrivals. Although we were a little tired, the fact that it was still mid afternoon in Boston and, the aroma of a fresh coffee, imbued us sufficiently with the energy to complete the final stage of our outbound travel.

We said our goodbyes to Judd and set off for our first stop: Kennebunkport, Maine. Although we had chosen to travel at the time of year just prior to the renowned "fall" season of mid September, we were still hopeful we would bear witness to the changing colours and tones in the scenery. We headed up the interstate, leaving the downtown area of Boston. Into the open country of rural Massachusetts; an overwhelming feeling of freedom came over us. We have traveled extensively in the UK by car and the experience wasn't always so enthralling. So it was quite amazing to feel so liberated in the knowledge that we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us.

It's so true, that old cliche - "everything in the states is so big".....it just is; wide open spaces, large portions, tall buildings. Everything is done on a much bigger scale. Despite this, we felt very cosy when we arrived in our bed and breakfast. We would be there for two nights, my recollection is a little hazy on details, but we seemed to get into a state of relaxation extremely quickly.

Maine is situated to the north of Massachusetts and it likewise has a coastline to the east. The wild Atlantic ocean stretching as far as the eye can see. The next landmass being that of home; dear old blighty. We hugged the ocean road for many miles, stopping to brace the wind that came back. Our next stop would be Westwards and to the neighbouring state of Vermont.

Our journey to Vermont was through mile after mile of forested landscape. Pine trees created a blanket of green that contracted with the almost clear blue skies above. Colours so vibrant they could almost have been made by felt tip pen. A Victorian B&B was our staging post here. Its owners had paid remarkable attention to details when furnishing the rooms. Our room had a bed that we almost needed a stepladder to ascend to; an authentic wrought iron roll top bath that stood freely in the middle of the bathroom. We were made to feel right at home by our hosts, receiving close attention as we were the only guests at the time.

Vermont is the birthplace of the now global brand of ice cream, Ben and Jerry’s, and we felt it incumbent of us to pay a visit to the factory where it all began. As children of the 70s, we did kind of feel like we were stepping into the pages of that great Roald Dahl book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"; the rooms were garishly painted; it was a hive of activity and there were lots of opportunities to taste the different flavoured ice creams being produced; Cherry Garcia (named after the grateful dead singer, Gerry) and Phish food (named after the band of the same name).

We returned to Boston, where we stayed in Judd's apartment for another few days, taking the opportunity to visit the JFK memorial library. This has a reconstructed oval office with the desk that was actually in the White House at the time of his presidency, and also a small cutter that the keen sailor had used in his early years before coming to power.

This holiday will always have great memories for us. It was such a different time in our lives - a time that we always look back on with such fondness.

We will return one day, hopefully with the children that now fill our lives so fully.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

An open letter to Hailo

To Whom It May Concern

I have tweeted several times today, all without acknowledgement. The reason for my inquiry is to understand why myself and other drivers did not receive funds today, payment is normally made on a Friday. Tomorrow is however a bank holiday, and we have been told that payment will now not be made til Tuesday. The message so far communicated has been that payment is delayed;  "Due to the bank holiday weekend".  

Bank holidays are not inserted into the calendar on an ad hoc basis, Easter has been on the calendar since biblical times. So the question is, what more important item has been on Hailo's itinerary that pushes back the payment to drivers.  Much has been said this week of your recent successful round of additional funding, some $17 million. Venture capitalists are no doubt reassured that you have a bullish growth plan. Thanks in no small part to the excellent customer experience of your London venture; driven literally by drivers who now have not received monies earned in good faith.  The failure to authorise payments creates a situation where drivers are forced to further extend their cash flow on behalf of Hailo. This in the middle of one of several fallow periods in the year.

In addition, I should imagine these monies, accrued in a bank somewhere, will result in additional interest, even for one day. That Hailo benefits financially from this administrative failing is unthinkable. Certainly not when drivers, who may well have worked harder in the previous week, to offset the drop in business that Easter school holidays bring, are not in receipt of monies. 

Therefore I would urge Hailo to make a charitable donation of an amount equal to this interest.  If it helps, causes held dear by many are Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, or the Help For Heroes fund.

This would serve as a valuable gesture.  Your driver community would feel that, to stretch a metaphor,  Hailo has put it's money where it's mouth is.  

Hailo sees itself as the brave new world in the licensed taxi trade, the 'new circuit' in all but name. Trust and belief that this is to be a long term relationship, mutually beneficial to both driver and customers AND Hailo must be earned.

This is one such opportunity.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Argumentative writing....

I had to write something argumentative as part of my English studies and thought it would make a good post.

Smacking is good for children

The argument for smacking children is an ongoing battle between the disciplinarians and the liberal minded who oppose it strongly.

The case for smacking is that it instills a sense of authority, from the parent to the child serving as a line in the sand, a point at which the child knows it has behaved in a very negative way. In my own experience as a member of a family with four siblings, all of whom were born within a relatively short space of time; I remember there being many occasions when my mother lost her temper and was very frustrated.  At  one point my mother had 4 children under the age of 5.  I can remember many times when the slipper would be produced to reinforce a request to desist from any number of activities in which I, or my brothers were engaged.  When I think back, I cannot recall any physical pain, nor do I feel any psychological effects.  My mother’s use of smacking came more from a sense of urgency, the fact that she had to manage 4 children, and get them to the various places we had to be, like school or a doctor’s  appointment.  I know that she didn’t treat it as her “go to” method of parenting; it was always after asking several times.

However smacking is not always seen in such an affirmative way.  Smacking can be assessed as simply being a physical and violent act from one human being to another.  In pure terms it negates the way we normally communicate with one another and is not an example to children of good behaviour.  It could be taken that this is the normal way to behave, which is surely a bad thing.  It’s not useful for a child, who may already know that he or she has done wrong, to receive a smack from their parent.  It is widely accepted that this can lead to feelings to low self esteem in later life.  This is to be avoided. It is unthinkable that parents would inflict pain on their children, they should be treated with care and they should understand that their actions have consequences; these should not be in the form of smacking. Parents need to realise the implications of their actions; It is their responsibility to teach guidelines of acceptable behaviour through experience of their own.  In addition, discussions of why certain behaviour is unacceptable would instill a greater understanding between both parties. Many children’s only memories are that of being constantly smacked and chided for not being a “good boy/girl”.  This often comes without truly understanding what the definition of this is.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Random musings

Thought I'd drop a few lines down about customers of note and also some other thoughts.....

I picked up an elderly couple from Kings Cross, they were en route to Sussex via Charing Cross station to visit family....the clan extends to 4 generations.   What a fantastic dynasty they sit atop,  "great grandchildren are the best" they said, "you can enjoy them without any feeling of responsibility"..... I guess after 3 children and 11 grandchildren, you learn to put the onus of 10 great grandchildren onto the 2 levels of parenthood below you.

On my travels I met a Belgian guy (not French as i had first thought.....hey it's pretty close!) he'd just returned from a trip to Munich, and we somehow got into a a discussion about various forms of 'icsm'.  Almost every point of a persons being is judged,  religion,  ethnicity,  skin colour, name etc etc.  The incessant default of those who deem to marginalise others, is to choose almost anything other than that that in the control of the individual.  Wouldn't it be great if that tide could turn......

I was recently gifted an iPad for my 40th, and as an avid follower of tech developments I reminisced about the  developments that I've witnessed over the years.  Vivid is my memory of receiving a battery operated cassette tape machine when I was about 8 or 9, this was also the same year that my older brother and I committed the cardinal sin of opening presents before my parents got up.  My mum has always taken more pleasure in watching people open presents than what's inside, so this caused merry hell that year.

So, from cassette tapes to MP3 players, corded to cordless and then smart phones, and the explosion of various forms of communication strands.

As an avid twitterer, a thought crossed my mind this week. I can remember joining a container shipping company in Kensington in 1990, the way we communicated was via printed messages that started and ended with '+++' and they were known as the '140 telexes'.......funny that (I found an article that explains the significance of 140 characters here) 

Here is where this post abruptly ends!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Well then, where have you been?

"I'm going to blog," "I'm going to blog"...... These are words that I've been saying time and again. All without execution, I am now blogging, not an inquisitive question or attempt, I am actually doing it.

My trouble is I think too much, I over think in fact. To the point of despair, despair that I will say the wrong thing or not please the right person at the right time. Instead I should be doing that task which is most important at that time. This need to please, worrisome predisposition has been a weight on my shoulders, and I am endeavouring to overcome it, fledgling step by step!

As I've said here already, I decided some time ago that I want to teach, during the course of 2011 I had three distance learning GCSEs that I bought and attempted to study simultaneously......well, it didn't transpire as I'd planned, the reality of combining the disciplines; English, Maths and Science, wasn't successful...this in addition to being there for my family and also that perennial pastime of earning the daily bread.

So this year I resolved that I would take things step by step, the first being then subject I consider to be my strength, English. I have booked exam and will be sitting it at my old comprehensive school.....which will be a little odd, but I finally have a first hurdle lined up on the track.

I must quickly thank @katehibbs for her help in mentoring me through the next couple of months

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Nothing like the smell of fresh paint...

So, a new broom sweeps clean and all that, we're finally having some aesthetic cleansing done.....by that metaphor I mean that the wonder Danny, has been working his decor magic in our tired old living room.

The darn thing has been "stripped and ready" for nearly 3 years, so I can't tell you how invigorating it is to see it taking shape into an inviting and calm retreat from the daily grind.

It's very plain, and what we hope will be a blank canvass to be adorned by inspiring pictures and paintings by friends and family, and of those cherished folks in our lives.

This has really kicked 2012 off for us, and I'm busy pursuing a teaching assistant role on a part time basis.  This I hope will give me valuable classroom experience, and also help motivate me in the continued study of my GCSEs.   A visit to the BETT show last week gave me a further boost, seeing so many enthusiastic and passionate educators in one place, and also seeing the amazing technology that is available in the classroom now.  I highly recommend it, even if you're not interested in a career in education, it's truly amazing.

I met lots of old twitter friends there and some new ones, and it further cements in me that I want to teach.

For the meantime, I'll leave you with a couple of pics from our Somerset House ice skating trip at the weeken....now I really must go and hang a clock on a wall!

Somerset House

Somerset House

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Brook Estate

I grew up in a family of four brothers, for 21 years, we always lived in the same street, on the now infamous 'Brook Estate".

So to the memories, which can be funny things,often romanticised, sometimes chronologically askew, but all very personal, and these, are mine of those years.
It was a council estate, and for all of my childhood my parents rented the accommodation, and with many other occupants were working class people (I always struggle nowadays to know if we should or shouldn't categorise by class, but these are memories so I'll stick with it) Mrs Thatchers right to buy initiative changed that in the eighties.

Dad, after living a 'jack of all trades' existence, became, through the guidance and support of mum and his friends who helped him attain the profession through city and guilds classed at night school, a plumber, in the employ of the local authority. Mum did what many wives did and, still do, working one or more jobs in the evenings, to help swell the coffers and fund the ever rising cost of feeding 4 "growing lads".

We were all taken to the local toddler group, all went to the nearby primary school, and would play on the green (although of course "no ball games allowed") next to our end of terrace house.

We were close to our immediate neighbours, played in each others gardens with their children, and there were various street party's to celebrate the Queens jubilee and the wedding of Charles and Diana.

There were the run of the mill events, minor burglaries, accidents in the two uprights of the ladder configuration of roads that comprised the estate, the estate was a rat run for traffic on the Rochester Way/A2, so these accidents and other pressures brought to bear the relief road being built in 1988), yet we always felt safe in our surroundings.

In addition to school, we were encouraged by our parents to try various other activities, these included the local youth club, boys brigade and most extensively and life affirming, the Scout Association, which I personally was involved with from the age of 8 until I was 25.

None of this was easy for my parents, to either support financially or logistically, but ways were found, clothes were handed down etc etc.

We were always aware of the 'bad boys' and 'street rakers' that lived on or near the estate, but frankly this was never an overbearing problem for us or our parents as they always knew where we were and what we were doing, and more importantly, they were interested in these details. The estate was populated by families from a range of ethnic. I never felt an overbearing sense of racial tension, this wasn't the 60's, I have always felt that I live in a multi cultural society and the Brook Estate epitomised this. At no time did I perceive a large presence of police, it was normal to see them on the street from time to time of course. The only recollection I have is of my eldest brother being stopped and searched on his way home one day, as he matched the description of someone who had burgled a house on the estate.

I think it's extremely sad that the events of 1993 occurred, and that only now any semblance of a  resolution has happened. It’s my strong belief that the parental guidance, love and ambition that I and my brothers received is the reason that we never brought any of the disappointment and dark clouds to their door that have surfaced in the press in recent weeks.