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Of miracles and meters

By R&H taxi columnist Sherbet Trotter

Posted February 04, 2016
taxis and religion

Newquay taxi driver Sherbet Trotter gets religion in the back of his cab.

Religion is an important element in the world of taxi drivers because the religious people very rarely bilk you (i.e. don't pay), but on the other hand they very rarely get taxis.

Now, we all have our own views and could argue to the cows come home, as most of the world does, but I struggle with the tithes that some of these religions want you to pay – 10% or more of your income otherwise terrible things may happen – and there is a chance that you may not be saved at the end.

Now, to me, paying a tithe would be like paying for a ticket for your favourite band or sports event.

You expect some kind of performance and can accept that sometimes you are going to be disappointed, as I have been in the past, but I heard that at one church in Dartford (I will not write the name but it rhymes with 'Sinners' and has a 'W' instead of an 'S' at the front) somebody witnessed a revival of the 'back to life' kind and I don't mean a Soul II Soul re-issue.

We are talking laying on a stage and being bought back to life.

I was not there so cannot say if it happened or not, but I am a gambling man and would like to have a bet on there being a little bit of slight of hand, to say the least.

So it goes against my nature to give a discount to the people who are supporting these miracle workers.

I would rather put a few quid in the Cornwall Children's Hospice or the Salvation Army (my mum reckons the Sally Army will always give you a bed for the night, so they can have a few quid till they start professional revivals).

Anyway, having this knowledge of this particular church, there are no discounts to be had.

So at midnight on Christmas Eve just over a year ago, when fares are at the highest tariff of the year, up walks a gentleman.

"Chappa" is what it sounded like when he spoke.

Now, me being the awkward bastard, who likes a 'please' and 'thank you' now and again, said "Sorry, I haven't a clue what you are saying", although I knew he meant the Sinners Chapel.

"Chappa," he says again.

I give my best bemused look and hold my hands up.

"Whinna," he tries, making the sound of a constipated donkey.

"Winners Chapel?" I said, as if I had just seen the light.

Now, the next words gave away that the gentlemen had mastered the art of conversation, so there was no need for the ignorant mumblings in the first place.

"How much will it be?"

"£12 [$17.50]," I replied.

"It is only normally £4," he shouted.

"That will be with a minicab and they are at least double fare tonight as its Christmas and you need to pre-book one of those."

With that, the gentleman wanders off.

Five minutes later, he comes back with two others, Bibles in their hands.

"I will give you £10".

"For £10 you can walk," I reply.

I wasn't bothered if he missed the next miracle – I should imagine there was at least one a week.

"I will give you £10 and Jesus will be with you" was the next offer.

"The man who runs your church is worth £90m and has two Learjets. That is two more Learjets than me, so it's £12 or Shanks's pony," I retort.

The gentleman shakes his head and off they walk, and I will tell you it's a bloody long walk all uphill to the Sinners Chapel.

Another 10 minutes passes and this time it is a lady, all dressed in her most colourful finery, with a smile which outshone her clothes, and what looked like a fruit bowl on her head (it wasn't a fruit bowl really).

"Merry Christmas," I wish her.

"Can I go to the Winner's Chapel, please?" she says still smiling.

"You do realise it is going to be £12," I say.

"I do not care, I just want to see Jesus," she says.

So the polite, smiling lady got into the cab and we set off, passing the other three wise men walking up the hill (they probably needed the exercise anyway).

We reached the Winners Chapel, the lady happily paid me and she went in with a smile to hopefully see the next miracle.

royal cornwall showground up wadebridge
Helter skelter! The Royal Cornwall (aka Wadebridge) Showground. (Check bottom for credit)

So we need to fast forward to the summer, when I pick up an American couple, who I will call Horace and Betty, from Newquay Airport.

They are happy and smiley and full of the joys of summer, and Jesus, it transpires.

"Where are you going?" I ask.

"Wadebridge Showground," Betty replies.

"Oh, you're going to the Happy Clappers' Festival," I presume.

"The ol' sing-along Christian festival," I add.

"Oh yes," they replied together.

Now, I thought to myself, these are genuinely normal people.

"Well, I can guarantee that you will have a great time, the Sun is shining and everybody will be going there to enjoy themselves."

"Oh yes, we've been before," says Betty.

"Well, if you want, I can come and sing a few verses of Down by the Riverside," I add.

"That would be great. Everybody is welcome," Betty replies.

I must say that I do love a bit of gospel, especially Mahalia Jackson, and would have loved to go to a church, as in the Blues Brothers with the late James Brown, to have a sing-along.

"So where in the States do you come from?" I ask.

"We used to live in Minnesota, but now we have a ministry in Northern Ireland," says Betty.

Now, I thought to myself, these seem totally at home with themselves and probably represent the average person who has not witnessed miracles every time they went to church, but I still had to ask, my curiosity having got the better of me.

"Is your ministry one of those where you get the odd dead body coming back to life in front of everyone?" I ask.

"Oh no, we don't get anything like that" says Betty, laughing.

"Bloody Hell," I thought, "these are normal people who just love Jesus and the Christian concept..."

Then Betty spoke again.

"Although there was once a time when a group of us were walking in California, we saw a guy sitting on a concrete block. We got talking to him and he mentioned he had one leg longer than the other. We asked him if he would like us to pray for him and he said we could if we wanted."

"So we prayed to the Good Lord and watched as eventually his shorter leg grew to the same length as the other one".

I just looked at them in the rear-view mirror and all I could say was...

"Many years ago, I had a fruit and veg stall, and the girl who worked for me had one leg longer than the other. She was very good at running the bends on the 400m".

Be lucky!

See also The season of goodwill, posted 17/12/15, among others.

Sherbet Trotter
is a Newquay, Cornwall-based taxi driver who writes books, films and songs and who gave that Rake bloke a lift the other day. We liked the cut of his jib so we immediately gave him a column.

Picture credits

Top and thumb: © Ignatius Rake.

Bottom: The Royal Cornwall Showground (aka Wadebridge Showground) in 2006 by Geoff Welding.

For licensing information on the second, click the above link.

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