Monthly Archives: March 2008

Talking Taxis

Talking to taxi drivers can be difficult. Many avenues of conversation are closed to you immediately. You would be ill advised, for example, to ask “Do you come here often?”. And there is always the sneaking suspicion that they are closet members of the BNP. The BNP mayoral candidate has actually announced their traffic plan for London now, it is simply: “Fewer people”. They aren’t specifying exactly who will have to leave but I’m guessing we could figure it out. And there is a chance that your average taxi driver would agree with him.

The one thing that’s absolutely certain is that they hate Ken Livingstone. They absolutely detest him. They think that Ken wants to drive them out of business. There is an obvious question about this, what with Ken being the first mayor of London, will they end up hating all mayors of London?

But every so often you get a gem of a conversation going with a driver and it makes it all worth while. I’ve chatted to them on subjects ranging from the disappointment they are feeling in their failing marriages to the joy they feel at Saturday morning football coaching. I think a lot of their passengers focus on talking traffic, weather and politics rather than talking to them about them. Once you do though it can be rather interesting. I’m always fascinated by people who do weird jobs and taxi drivers are doubly weird because they have to face long stretches of solitude in other people’s company. I think it could easily drive one mad.

In recent years, they seem to have rather embraced the mobile phone as a solution. You often find taxi drivers talking to other taxi drivers as they’re going along. So in a way it has become more like going to the office. That coupled with this odd invention which is the TV in the back of the cab for the passengers signals the death of this great art form. Most people will love it for us British are nothing if not embarrassed by the social niceties of making polite conversation. But for those of us who enjoy playing, “see how many miles you can go without the driver saying, ‘I’m not racist but…’”, it’s the end of an era.

A night near the tiles

The other Saturday I ended up visiting the Troubadour in West Brompton for a friend’s combined birthday and engagement party. It’s a great fun venue, formerly visited by Dylan and Hendrix, it very much seems the kind of place you’d expect them to hang out. A good time was had by almost everyone.

Actually the only pall on the whole evening came when some oik managed to bump into me spilling my red wine over Katherine’s new silk skirt.

Despite several attempts to remonstrate with the man he seemed to be feigning deafness. Now I would have normally left the situation there. No need to resort to violence which seemed the only remaining action if he couldn’t hear us.

But no, our host, who is one of the most persuasive people I have ever met, persuaded him to buy Katherine a glass of white wine to throw on herself. I’m not sure the man understood what was being asked of him as he wanted to know which kind of white wine we’d prefer.

Catherine*, our host, is like a one woman pressure group. And very effective she was too. She mainly just repeatedly asked him if he’d ever read Mrs Beaton. When the guy returned a few minutes later with the wine it looked like he wanted to be the one to throw the wine himself as if to be sure that it wasn’t going to be drunk. But in the end he seemed satisfied to watch as it happened. He then shook his head and wondered off.

I can’t help but imagine what happened on Monday morning at the water cooler.

Him: Morning

Friend: So how was Saturday? Big night?

Him: Well I bought a girl a drink.

Friend: And?

Him: She poured it on herself.

Friend: Surely the tradition is to pour it on you.

Him: I know, this suit doesn’t get sticky by itself.

Friend: Don’t talk to me anymore.

* Confusing having a Katherine and a Catherine in a story isn’t it. But then that’s the problem of not being the author of your own life.

It’s a trap

The other morning I took a bagel out of the freezer to discover that it was broken into lots of small pieces. I was feeling a bit flush at that moment and so I decided to donate it to the needy. I toasted it up to defrost it, waited a day for the bread to go good and stale and then I put it out in the back garden for the birds.

Now while it was going stale, just for the day, I left it in the toaster. And on this day Kris came over. He was incredulous at my
actions. He wanted me to put the bread that was going stale on a plate. Why? I cannot say. (Perhaps he will in the comments?)

So at any rate* it was the day to feed the birds. I took the bagel out and scattered it about. And soon, after no time at all, nothing had happened. I turned away from the garden as though shunning a lover or baby marmot.

An hour or so later I looked back out of the window to discover a flock – yes despite their mixed breeds I’m willing to say they were a grouping of some kind. Perhaps, yes… I looked back to discover a melting pot of birds all pecking and flapping around in the back garden. There were pigeons and some other kinds of birds there too.

I gazed out over the throng and I saw that it was good. They seemed to be enjoying themselves enormously – even though I realised I was committing the anthropomorphic error.

Suddenly out of the corner of my garden I noticed the padding of a distinctly non-bird-like foot. It was a cat. It sauntered into view along the fence. A moment later it was joined by another. They were both observing the birds going about their business with a certain disdain. I got ready to open the window and shout. And then I saw something that steeled my resolve. A fox, as
bold as brass, in the middle of the day. I opened the window and shouted out, “it’s a trap”. They all survived.

* More specifically at the rate of one day**

** 24 hours ***

*** I could go on. I hope you get the picture. ****