Stoke is one of those spread-out sort of places the Midlands specialises in, pedestrians aren't well catered for. And I don't drive. So when I go up there, I am often in a taxi. There is no half way house with the taxi drivers, they are either wildly cheerful or utterly lugubrious. Here is a recent conversation between a taxi driver and me. I'd just spend the weekend at my Mum's and called a taxi firm called Sid's to take me to the station. It was a Monday morning, average in every way, not overdoing the weather.
Driver says traffic terrible and sticks ‘Sids’ stickers to side of car (?)
I ask him to help me take off my backpack and put it in the boot with my wheelie suitcase. He does this, not happy to be asked.
We get in the taxi.
I say something about the traffic, ask if many people are going to the station
Driver - You are my first station job this morning.
Me - Oh, weird, wonder why it’s so busy on a Monday then? I thought it might be people going off to London or something.
Driver - I’ve been doing my own jobs up till now.
Me - Oh?
Driver - The day is already ruined.
Me - Why is that?
Driver - I’ve been trying to sort out an M & S suit for my daughter’s wedding. And I had these tests at the GP surgery. They phoned me up today, said it was nothing to worry about, got to come in in a couple of weeks and have some other tests, and the wife is there, asking me questions, so I can’t hear what they are saying. Then when I ring off, she’s like, why didn’t you ask this and that? So I lost it completely, and I said, well next time I’ll get them to speak to you and not bother speaking to me, and threw the phone at her.
Me - Oh dear.
Driver - So that’s it. The thing is, it’s my wife’s birthday and we were going to go for a nice meal after we’d collected the suit. And now that’s all off, she’s deep in cleaning now, not going anywhere. There’s no going back now.
Me - When women do the cleaning instead of going out for lunch it’s normally a sign of protest.
Driver - It’s all ruined. She’s not speaking to me.
Me - Can’t you unruin it somehow?
Driver - There’s no going back.