Martin Gurdon shares his recent experiences with Taxis - both good and bad !


A bout of minor shoulder surgery has put me in the passenger seat for a couple of weeks.

I live in a Kentish village, served by the 2b bus. I haven’t had the joy of its company for some time, and may well need to re-acquaint myself with it if I’m going to make a couple of meetings in London. Otherwise I’ll have to dig deep into my pocket and use the local taxi services.

The last cab ride I had was with my wife. We were returning from holiday, arrived late at night at our local railway station, and clambered gratefully into the back of a cab that, inevitably, was a slightly tired Skoda Octavia.

Its driver – a gent of indeterminate middle age – soon proved more careworn than the car. He provided us with transport, but we provided him with something approaching counseling.

This unfortunate man’s marriage had come un-stuck and we were soon told exactly why. He was looking after an ageing parent, whose ailments where described in minute detail, and although we felt sympathetic; we’d rather not have had our medical knowledge expanded as a result.

‘I’ve not been well either,’ said our host. ‘circulation problems. ’I could hardly feel my feet.’

The cab driver was less than reassuring!

This was not re-assuring; nor was what he said next.

‘I’ve had open-heart surgery, you know. Apparently it was really bad and I shouldn’t have been driving.’

For good measure this man added that he’d only just come back to work and still felt ‘a bit odd.’ He wasn’t the only one.

At least he knew where he was going, which was more than could be said for character who turned up to take me to the railway station some months before.

Big voiced and big haired, this driver at least spared me his life story, but I knew something was up when he sailed past a junction where he needed to turn left.

‘Ooops!’ he said when I pointed this out.

The distance to the station from our house is about ten miles, and he managed to wrong slot three more times.

As he shot into a housing estate and up a cul de sac, I grew testy and asked if he knew where he was going. As he executed a laborious three-point turn the driver assured me that he did, then added ‘It’s my Sat Nav,’ which was odd, because he didn’t have one.

We used to know a brilliant mini cab driver who has sadly moved on to other things. She never got lost, and drove beautifully, piloting her baggy, 150,000 mile Ford Mondeo with greater smoothness and precision than I’ve seen employed by some motoring journalists on new car launches.
Value my car
‘I ride motorcycles,’ she explained. In fact, our favourite mini cab driver was a biker in her spare time, a sort of Home Counties Easy Rider. Her other distinguishing feature was that she’d started life as a he, and was mid way through the process of turning into a she when we first met her.

This meant that during the transformation, after working night shifts on the run to Gatwick airport she resembled a slightly stubbled Angelica Huston.

We gathered that she’d had a daughter and was still on good terms with the lady to whom she’d been married. This meant that when the daughter herself wed, she’d had had a biker guard of honour, and her parents had both worn their best frocks and danced together.

As you can imagine, I’m looking forward to driving my own car again, but suspect life will take some interesting turns because I can’t.

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