Tuesday 8 May 2007


On our recent travels we have engaged some delightful and very interesting taxi drivers. I guess to be a successful taxi driving you should have a keen eye, razor wit and a profound interest in humankind. The taxi drivers of Belfast have all these qualities in spades. Each one has his own “take” on the past “troubles” and the future prospects of the city. Their observations are fascinating, rich in history and very passionate. A city of philosophers who have kissed the blarney stone.

In Scotland our taxi driver, on hearing our destination, said he had worked at the Singer Sewing Machine factory with a guy from that village when he was younger. “That guy” turned out to be one of my young man’s childhood friends. They had a good Scottish blether about this and that, and my young man was able to inform the driver where their mutual friend could be found drinking on a Friday night. This bought us a good discount on the fare! Result!!

But it was in Stockholm that we had our most exciting and unforgettable experience. We hailed a taxi. Through the half opened window I passed a card bearing the name of our unpronounceable hotel. The driver was wearing nail varnish which should have alerted me to the fact that this was not your usual run of the mill alpha macho male.

It wasn’t until we were underway that we all noticed his extreme oddity. He was very old and decrepit (even by our standards) with grey stubble on his head and chin, a hair lip, no teeth, long varnished nails, earrings, bangles on his wrists and a ladies hairbrush in his side pocket. OK……..too late to get twitchy (unless we were prepared to jump from a moving vehicle) so we chose to ignore all the bad vibes and “act British” as though there was nothing unusual going on here.

Now I can “act British” as much as you want, but don’t try to rip me off. Do that and you can forget the “stiff British upper lip” and in its place comes “belligerent stiff British bulldog”. I think you can get my drift here can't you? Right - he did try to rip us off. The journey into the city usually cost about £15, he was asking double. Out came the bulldog.

Foreigners are ignorant and usually unschooled in the intricacies of the English language and as I didn’t want him to misunderstand me I simply yelled at the top of my voice “too much". As anticipated, he understood this simple phrase and started yelling back in gibberish. I continued to shout “too much, too much”. He quickly gave in to my superiority and reduced his rate to £25. I continued yelling “too much, too much - £16 - no more”, “come into the hotel” and got out of the taxi. One of my travelling companions duly handed him the equivalent of £16 and also got out. Well…this enraged him beyond belief. He recognised that I was the one making the decisions here and ran up yelling in foreign at me and spitting in my face.

People that know me well know not to yell (especially in foreign) and spit in my face. It makes me mad and that’s not nice. The pen, being mightier than the sword, appeared in my hand and brandishing it I continued yelling “give me your driver’s number” and maybe a few other choice words thrown in for good effect. For a few short seconds we stood toe to toe screaming at each other. I won. He left. Now he knows not to mess with us Brits. Rule Britannia.

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