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Jeeves and the M25

By R&H taxi columnist Sherbet Trotter

Posted September 21, 2015
round the M25 in a minicab

Newquay taxi driver Sherbert Trotter pays homage to the first man to circumnavigate the M25.

This week I need to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first man that I know of to circumnavigate the M25.

Well, it was probably about 28 years ago, but anyway...

Back in the days of unlicensed minicabs in London, it was common knowledge that if you were a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker or even a builder, when times were hard you could rock up at your local minicab firm and if you had a driving licence, a vehicle with an MOT and a bit of tax in the window, you could work as a minicab driver.

Now, before everyone starts about the licensed London taxis, the vast majority only worked in central London – the saying "won't go south of the river" wasn't made up out of nothing.

They would drop passengers off at the Elephant and Castle, just south of the Thames, knowing there was a minicab firm there who would take the passenger the last leg home.

"The humble minicab put food on the table and subsidised the dole."

Also, a lot of today's taxi drivers in London badges Green/Yellow started off as minicab drivers, though few would like to admit it.

The humble minicab put food on the table and subsidised the dole (there was not a hundred different benefits to claim as there is now).

One minicab company when asked by a driver how did he pay his income tax and stamp told him to "fuck off" as they would not have anybody working for them who wasn't signing on!

It saved on paperwork and red tape, I think.

Anyway, I worked with a lot of 'salt of the earth' guys who I see today.

One, who I got to know reasonably well, I will call 'Jeeves' as I've got to protect his real name for security reasons (social security reasons).

Jeeves' background was in the hotel game: he was a hall porter.

He could get tickets for anything and he worked on the laws of supply and demand, the golden rules of economics: he supplied you with the tickets then demanded more money than he paid for them.

He could get you front row for anything.

I wouldn't be surprised if the queen's seat at the FA cup wasn't available, that is after Tommy Cooper had tried to get it (look that one up, a great story).

Anyway, Jeeves had all the attributes you could want, bar one: 'no common sense'.

He was good with customers: he could talk a customer round if you were late, helpful with their bags and very reliable – he turned up for work!

a uk minicab yesterday
Your carriage awaits: A minicab, or 'private hire car', yesterday. © pit pony photography

Jeeves' bad week started with three points on his licence and a fine for overtaking on continuous double white lines.

This was followed by clipping a car wing mirror as he drove along with a passenger on board.

Jeeves stopped to report it and knocked on the nearest door.

He got no answer so then wrote his home phone number down on a piece of card and told the passenger he would tuck it under the car window wiper so they could ring him later.

Jeeves, however, palmed the card (he was obviously a dab hand with taking those back handers with nobody seeing at the hotel).

However, the passenger must have suspected something and went back and found the owner of the car and bubbled Jeeves.

Things were not going well.

On hearing his tales of woe, I said to come to work Sunday as there was quite a bit of work on and I would try and put a few quid in his pocket.

All started well.

He turned up about five in the afternoon.

I called him into the office and gave him a piece of paper with the two jobs written on it, knowing I would not get him on the radio when he cleared on the first one.

Job One at 6pm: going from a hotel near Bexley, Kent, taking somebody to Heathrow, which would've taken about an hour and 20 minutes.

Job Two: the next customer was to be picked up at Junction 21a on the M25 at 8.30pm to bring them back to Kent.

When clear on the first job, Jeeves had approximately an hour and a bit to travel seven junctions (about 20 miles (32 km)) to pick up the second job.

So, basically, to Heathrow and back.

" On driving around the M25, he suddenly realised he was not going the right way..."

Now, the problem started when Jeeves cleared at Heathrow.

He did not look at the piece of paper, he just remembered 21, which he took to be the A21, which is about 50 miles back round the M25, which was near enough where he started from.

On driving around the M25, he suddenly realised he was not going the right way, but he was nearly back where he started, so he continued around the M25 until he reached Junction 21a.

By now it is 9.30pm and I have got the customer on the phone, asking if her cab was on its way.

He was already an hour late and if he wasn't there by 10pm, she would stay at her daughter's.

She did not want to travel back to Kent late at night, which was fair enough.

As I said earlier Jeeves was brilliant with customers.

I get a phone call just before 10pm: he was having a cup of tea and a sandwich with the customer and would tell me about it when he got back.

As a mate of mine says, "You couldn't write it".

But obviously, I have.

Jeeves eventually got back on the M25 and continued his grand tour.

After dropping the customer off, he finally came in the office at about midnight and told me the story.

I said to him: "Oh well, I take it you got paid, and that helps you out of a hole."

"Not really," Jeeves replied. "I only charged her £10 as I was late."

In fact, he must have lost money with all the extra fuel, etc.

Jeeves didn't last as a minicab driver.

He went off to teach hall portering at a college somewhere, never to be seen again.

Be lucky!

See also Four lads from Liverpool, posted 27/7/15.

Sherbet Trotter
is a Newquay, Cornwall-based taxi driver who writes books, films and songs and who gave that Rake bloke a lift the other day. We liked the cut of his jib so we immediately gave him a column.

Picture credits

Top and thumb: © Ignatius Rake.

Bottom: A UK minicab by TerriersFan (it seems).

For licensing information, click the above link.

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