Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Hooptedoodle #155 - Socrates is alive, and drives a taxi

Yesterday I went to Glasgow. It isn’t very far from here, but I don’t go very often; one of my grown-up sons lives there, and visiting him is really the only reason I go.

Trying to judge the timing of my return journey to avoid the Saturday football crowds, I took a taxi back to the station. It was dark, wet, dismal, and the traffic was very slow.

The driver was bald, with a thick neck – the only view I got of his head was exactly like those old photos of WW1 artillery shells.

“Where you going?”

“Queen Street station, please.”

“What train you catching?”

“It doesn’t matter – I’m travelling to Edinburgh, and they are every 15 minutes or something – plenty of time.”

“Edinburgh? [uh-oh] – I see you beat us today, then!”

“What game was that?”

“Hearts beat the Rangers three-nothing.” [Excellent!]

“I didn’t hear the result – not really a Hearts fan.”

What you doing in Glasgow then? [this question doesn’t follow from the football discussion, since the Hearts game was, in fact, in Edinburgh – perhaps he thought I might have come through to Glasgow just to avoid seeing the game.]”

“I was visiting my son – he lives off Maryhill Road.”

“Oh – that’s all right then – why not, eh? [Why not? – hmmm…]

Short silence, while the driver tried to tune in his radio

Crazy day – the town’s full of foreign bloody visitors – none of them speaks proper English, no-one knows where they are supposed to be going – they’re a bloody nuisance. [Right – one of those – presumably he refused to take their money]”

Thinking this was a poor reflection on the former City of Culture, host of the Commonwealth Games and all that, I just grunted. No stopping this guy, though.

I hope we get out of Europe – what’s all that about? They have rules about the shape of a ****ing banana, it says in the paper – what’s all that about? I’m a taxi driver [really?], and I don’t see why I have to work every hour God sends to pay my tax, so some black lassie with five kids can get a house somewhere – why isn’t her man paying tax? [Erm…] It isn’t fair, I say, and there’s a lot like me. [I fear you may be correct]

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. [Whatever]”

Right? I’ll say I’m ****ing right. That’s what’s wrong with Britain today. Anyway, you’re obviously English, are you, from your accent? [uh-oh] What you doing living in Edinburgh?”

“Well I’ve lived in Scotland most of my life – I live on the East coast, not far from Dunbar. [I guessed Dunbar was big enough for him to have heard of it – I was wrong]”

Dumbarton? [harsh guffaw] When I was at school, that was on the West coast – you’re away the wrong way, pal!”

“No – no, Dunbar – its about 40 miles the other side of Edinburgh. [where is that bloody station…?]”

“My daughter lives in Sheffield,” he said, “and all her neighbours complain to her because they can’t understand ‘Still Game’ on the telly – they say it should have subtitles. Can you understand it? [Holy Moses]”

“Yes – never had any problems with that.”

Thank goodness, we reached the station. I paid my fare, and thanked the driver, not very effusively in either action, so be sure. He had one last piece of worldly advice.

“Mind how you go in the station – these ****ing ‘Big Issue’ salesmen and that will have your wallet off you quick as a flash.”

With any lasting pleasure I might have gained from my visit to Glasgow severely muted, I set off to take my chances with the cruel foreigners.


  1. Not allowed to give people a drink of hemlock any more are we?

    1. If I spent my days with my back turned to complete strangers, I think I'd watch my mouth a bit. Maybe he does some kind of snapshot analysis of his customers as they come on board. If I had been 300lbs and black I might have got a different version. Who knows?

  2. Thank God I read that. It's cheered up an otherwise dull day!

    1. My wife seemed a little puzzled that I was not more upbeat about my day out in the cheery, warm-hearted West.

  3. At least he provided us with a bit of entertainment. Surely there is some value in that?

    1. The man is not without some value, I admit. He was quite a chunky fellow - I reckon if boiled down he would make about a kilogram of soap, for a start.

  4. I fear taxi divers are the same the world over - do they start out like that or turn into it ?, Tony

    1. Maybe they have characteristics that self-select them (like basketball players), or maybe the job appeals to a certain type, or maybe the long hours and the bum-numbing nature of the work does something to their minds.

      The night after the Referendum result, George Square in Glasgow was full of middle-aged men in suits and kicking boots, singing Protestant sectarian songs and generally behaving as they have always done on Orange Lodge parades and at Glasgow Old Firm matches - Glasgow is a fine city, but it also has a long tradition of mindlessness and hatred which depresses the life out of me.

  5. I had a pleasant cab driver in Rome this summer, who seemed entirely free of prejudice, but he did cheat me out of 15 Euros by needlessly driving me around half of Rome. I'm not sure which kind of cabbie is worse.

    1. I think Italian taxi drivers are kind of different; of course he stiffed you on the trip/fare, but there's nothing personal in it - he is kind of expected to do this, so he would be letting everyone down if he didn't. Being stiffed by taxis, car parks, gift shops and waiters is an essential part of the Italian experience. And - importantly, as you point out - they do it in a pleasant manner.

  6. It's a truth, universally acknowledged, that all taxi drivers everywhere are about a half second off reality. Bless them. At least it gives us all a chance to know what 'they' think. (You know, them, the ones who vote for people 'we' can see are nutjobs and watch reality television.)

    1. Steve - thanks for this - made me feel a bit better about it. To be honest, one of the things I am least comfortable about is the implied we/they - I am aware of feeling like that in myself, and my working class origins and liberal socialist leanings don't like it very much. As we go through life, if we are lucky (which is a big proviso, I accept), we try to improve our lives in ways which suit us - we move away from people or situations we do not find agreeable or amenable. Nowadays I live, by choice, in a very rural area, in conditions of some comfort, and I have got out of the old habits of being physically threatened at least once a day, of avoiding eye contact on the street, of being aware of violent domestic squabbles on the next stair etc. We grow away from these things - we tend to forget. They are still there, and they are no more oppressive than they ever were, but occasional exposure to old attitudes is more of a culture shock than it should be.

      Glasgow is a decent, modern city - I have many friends who are Glaswegians - but its history is unusual in that the big shift of population from the Highlands into the city, looking for work in the shipyards and the factories, is comparatively recent by European standards - the clans were housed en masse in the schemes, bringing their traditions, their religious prejudices and their feuds with them. That legacy is still with us, to an extent, and raises its ugly head on most Saturday nights.

    2. Glasgow's difficult history of forced relocations, miserable living conditions and tough, manual labour means that many Glaswegians came to Australia as "ten pound Poms" in the 50s and 60s. As a result I have many friends from that particular corner of the world, and they are some of my favourite people. Generous, gregarious, hilarious and brilliant musicians. But the city made them tough, too. One of the staff in my local post office is an older lady of Glaswegian origins, and she became internet famous for five minutes after calmly facing down an armed robber. He said "give me all the money or I'll stab you". She said "no you won't" and just walked off to press the alarm button! He was quite flummoxed. I know exactly what you mean about being uncomfortable with the culture shock, having made the transition from blue collar ruffian to uni-educated arse-sitter. That said, some people are just jerks, but its good now and again to try and figure where they're coming from, otherwise we just assume that everyone who isn't Our Kind Of People are just stupid. A dangerous assumption.