Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

My local cab firm has gone global. Its drivers are now so fantastically cosmopolitan they no longer speak any English or know anything at all about Britain. The situation reached crisis point the other night.

'Royal Opera House, ' I kept saying, very slowly. 'Royal . . .Opera . . .House.'

'Roya' Oppa How?' said the minicab driver.

'No. Listen. Ro . . . yal . . . Op . . . er . . . a House. It's a big building with opera inside it.'

He furrowed his brow. 'Raya Open Horse?'

'Fine, just drive, we'll work it out when we get near.'

'Poss Cod, ' he said, looking panicstricken.

'WC2, ' I said. He put WC2 into his sat nav but of course that only narrowed it down to 300 possible destinations.

'Please, ' I said, 'I show you. We go.


'Coven' Gaaaarden?' he said, staring manically at his TomTom.

'Yes, yes, good, ' I said. 'I like. Is good. Cov . . . ent . . .Gaaaaar . . . den!' This seemed to soothe him and he started to drive. 'Sorry about this, ' I said, laughing, in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere.

'Wah?' he shouted, turning round so that the car swerved all over the road.

'Nothing, don't worry. Keep driving.'


'Go, go! Is good!'

'I go, ' he said, looking horribly determined.

Thanks to the sat nav, we made it to Covent Garden and I began to feel hopeful as I saw the top of the Opera House roof loom into view. But we sped past and turned down a side street. 'There, ' I said. 'WAH!'

he shouted, as the car swerved. I decided to keep quiet on the basis that I didn't have any way of instructing him to turn round using the words 'Is good' and 'Go!'. Maybe he would stop soon. Of course he didn't.

He drove on until he reached the side entrance to Covent Garden market, then he parked. 'Coven' GaaaaardEN!' he shouted, jabbing at the window. 'OUT!' I suppose I could have surrendered at this point. But it was raining. I surveyed the streets awash with puddles, my fancy dress and four-inch stilettos. All the other awards ceremony guests were pulling up at the Opera House in limos, camera bulbs flashing, concierges ushering them in.

And here was I, being shouted at in a battered Toyota by a big bearded man who last week was living under the threat of death, torture or starvation, and who now, understandably, saw no challenge in standing up to a girl in a pink dress who didn't want to get her feet wet. …

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