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You meet all sorts driving a cab

By R&H taxi columnist Sherbet Trotter

Posted July 25, 2017
taxi tales by sherbet trotter

A nutter, a seadog and an OAP with road rage, Newquay taxi driver Sherbet Trotter recalls some his more memorable fares.

Over the years there have been many reforms in politics and life, and the media can sometimes condition us to a new way of thinking.

Then, now and again, something or someone always surprises us, and it can be in the most unexpected way.

People are always at the centre and here are just a few examples of the characters that I have come across.

Some put you on edge and scar your brain with an image; others you remember because they make you smile; others you remember that have made you laugh out loud.

The first person I write about I came across picking up at what we called at the time a 'mental asylum' or 'nuthouse'.

These are now virtually extinct, a bit like the white rhino, or a cabinet minister that is in a department that they actually know anything about.

Well, one sunny afternoon I pulled up at Bexley Hospital, which was home to a large number of people who were regarded by the majority of locals as 'nutters'.

Now, I have no medical or psychological qualifications, other than I am able to put contact lenses in (and know if they are in the wrong way) and I know that a Big Mac meal is a great cure for a hangover (I am pretty sure if they had used half a dozen Big Mac meals when BP had that massive oil spill off the coast of America it would have saved a multibillion dollar claim – I am pretty sure the old Big Mac meal can soak up anything!).

Anyway, I pull up at the reception and a bloke walks towards me.

"Are you the cab for Catford?" he asks.

Now, the first question when picking up at an asylum was: "Have you any money?"

"£10," the bloke replies.

"OK. Give me the tenner and get in."

So, we set off and drive along the A2 towards London.

At the time, I had a Fiat Supermirafiori with a sunroof, which happened to be open.

I hadn't really taken a lot of notice, but I did spot this bloke had a pair of spectacles on but that there were no lenses in the frames.

I listened to him telling me that he was on the run from some gangsters and he had to be careful where he got out.

He was totally away with the fairies and just rambling on, which I used to expect, nodding my head in the right places, a bit like listening to drunks.

Anyway, as we went along Westhorne Avenue towards Catford, and as we pulled up under a railway bridge in St Mildreds Road just before the traffic lights, I felt something land on my head.

Yes, it got me in one: a pigeon has decided to crap and it was bang on target.

As I've looked round, there is this bloke grinning and laughing out loud, looking at me through these glasses with no lenses.

I accelerated and drove as fast as I could to the one-way and dropped him off, with him still laughing with his lens-less glasses, and I have to say I can still picture his face 32 years on.

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We move on 10 years roughly to Dartford and there used to be an old seaman called Fred, a proper character that would pretend to stagger a little along the rank.

He would always have had a few pints of Guinness (a man after my own heart) but would always then stand upright as he got to the front cab.

Fred would get in and this would be the conversation…

"Have I ever told you I was an old sailor?"

"I used to be the safety officer on the Titanic," he would start to smile, the smile of a music-hall comic with a twinkle in his eye.

"When I got rescued from the iceberg, mummy polar bear and two baby polar bears were waving and shouting out, 'Goodbye, daddy.'"

"Do you know what you find in the crow's nest on a ship?"

"Crow's eggs."

"I have just seen a little girl crying."

"I said, 'What's the matter?'"

"She said, 'I've lost me mum.'"

"I said, 'What's she like?'"

"The little girl said, "Cock and bingo."

Every time you picked him up it was the same routine.

Fred eventually got his war medals 50 years after the war and has sadly died, but what a great character and the jokes still make me smile.

Now, this lady is fairly recent so I will not mention local places, but this, like the others, is a true story.

I was given a job and picked up this elderly lady, who reminded me of a typical grandmother/great-grandmother in her 70s: grey permed hair, a few laughter lines and a warm smile.

I will call her Mabel.

I put her suitcase in the car and asked Mabel where she was going.

"To the railway station," Mabel said.

"Where are you off to?" I asked, thinking she was off to somewhere like Torquay or Eastbourne.

"New Zealand and Australia," Mabel replied.

We then had a conversation about where she was going, and it turns out she was driving on her own around New Zealand for a week and then three weeks in Australia.

It was on Sydney Bridge she said she would shout out her deceased husband's name.

It turned out he had recently died and they were meant to have been going together.

We discussed the good and bad of the NHS and I was amazed by her confidence and guts.

She was travelling halfway around the world and you hear people half her age moaning about going to the local shops.

What happened next totally threw me and still makes me laugh every time I tell the story as it was so unpredictable.

We got to the town centre, I pulled up at a T-junction and I had to turn right.

If I turned left, the traffic was backed up, but there was just enough room to pull out.

But as I went to do so, another car pulled up straight in front of me, blocking my way.

Mabel leaned forward with her face near the windscreen, looked at the driver and shouted…


"I hate ignorant drivers."

Be lucky!

See also Of miracles and meters, posted 4/2/16.

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.

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