Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

Sometimes I don't suspect the world has gone mad, I know it. For example, I took a black cab home from the theatre the other night and, as we passed Tooting Common, the driver wound down his window and threw a handful of raw sausages out of it. I tapped the glass politely and asked him what he was doing. 'I'm feeding the foxes, ' he said, reaching down for another sausage.

The vermin of Tooting were, of course, delighted. A hungry pack raced alongside us drooling and snaffling up the raw, pink meat as the cabbie cooed and called out pet names for them. 'Excuse me, ' I said, leaning forward and tapping on the glass again, 'but I'd like to point out that it's your fault I have to live with this lot ripping apart my bins and running amok.'

'Nah!' said the cabbie, 'you wanna encourage the foxes, mate. If it weren't for them there'd be more rats.'

'I beg your pardon?'

'They eat the rats, see.'

'Are you sure about that?'

'Yeah, I've seen it.'

'Well, I've never seen it, and even if they did it's not much comfort. They're vermin, too, you know. They carry disease.'

'Rubbish, ' said the cabbie, getting agitated.

I decided I had better stop arguing until he got me home. But the second I had paid him and got the door open, I let rip: 'You're the problem, you know that?'

'No, I'm not, ' he said; 'anyway, what's your name?'

'What's that got to do with it? Melissa.'

'Hello, Melissa, you're lovely.'

This was too much. 'I'm a supporter of fox hunting, ' I said, but he just laughed.

'I hope I see you again.'

'No, you don't.'

'Yes, you and me . . . ' You and me? The cabbie who feeds foxes and the girl who likes to chase them on horseback? Was he demented? But just to show that hunters are not bad people I asked him his name.

'I'm Joe, ' he said, 'and I'll look out for you and when we meet again I'll serenade you.' Which probably means he'll throw raw sausages at me.

The next morning, still reeling from Joe Le Taxi fox-feeder, I made my way to Boots to buy provisions for my forthcoming Kilimanjaro climb. I'm getting quite into this now. I have worn in a very nice pair of Scarpa boots, my friend Ingrid has given me all her kit from when she did the climb, including a state-of-the-art sleeping bag with silk liner and inflatable mattress - no comfort spared. …

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