The Taxi Driver Who Couldn’t Drive

Well, that’s not strictly true. He could drive, just not terribly well it would seem. He didn’t appear to quite know how a manual engine was used for starters.

Now that I’ve begun to talk about cars, I suspect a certain large percentage of you will switch off, taking your like-giving fingertips elsewhere. And for those of you who do remain, I’ll do my best to make my shop talk brief in any case.

So, as I was saying, manual engines … In a manual engine powered car, you as the driver are responsible for changing from one gear in the car’s engine to another. This is usually quite simple, and done with the help of an aptly named “gear stick” as well as another thing called a “clutch pedal”. The engine has something called a “rev counter”, which shows you how quickly a vital component within it is spinning. Usually, when in a certain gear the engine revs up to a certain speed, and then you sir the clutch and the gear stick to change gears for a higher number. This is also done in reverse when the speed of the revving is decreased …
Now, when gearing up or gearing down, there is a particular range of the engine revving which is ideal to change gears. This is most commonly shown by the sound of the engine. It makes a rather unpleasant and loud noise when it really want you to change gears, and one normally changes gears before this symphony hits ones ears. However, the taxi driver I spoke about previously didn’t quite seem to comprehend this process. He allowed the engine to howl in complaint for lengthy periods of time, those in the car left looking sideways at each other as he merely spoke louder and louder to reach above the engine’s wailing.

Aside from this, he had to turn back around to look at street signs he’d missed the first time around, took more than the allowable (or what I thought even possible) amount of turns in a roundabout and more than once had to ask the front passenger where on earth he was going …

To make a short end to a short story made long – I got to where I was going and made it through my first evening back in Europe … In short, really short, the world was saying “welcome to Poland, your stay is going to be an intriguing one” … S.H.

Buses for the Poor(ish)

Frost encrusted countryside whizzes by the window. The warming tide of morning sun leans against the hillsides and tree branches and rooftops, stirring them all awake from a soft pre-winter slumber. White puffed clouds on the horizon look like anime style mountains through the surrounding city haze.
The bus is overly warm. But not too warm, not yet anyway. Apart from a stray cough, and the occasional trumpet-playing-nose-blower, the annoyance level is minimal … But even as I write these words I can feel a jinx coming on. The chatter level is growing.

In most western/first world countries, if you don’t have a car, you’re forced to seek an alternative means of transportation.  This is when buses and trains most commonly come into play. A train, for me, is always better. You’ve got more space, can get up and walk about if you want, and the ride is usually quicker and smoother. But if that option isn’t available, then comes the dreaded bus journey …

A bus journey, I’m talking longer than a city bus to town here, is my idea of the low point of travel. It’s true, sometimes they can be good, but often they are not. You’re too close to the person behind you, who keeps jabbing their knee into the back of your seat, and by extension the back of your back. The lady seated in front of you keeps turning around disapprovingly whenever you do something so offensive as breathing. And the rest of the bus seem to all have flu, Ebola, and a weird near-fatal desease passed on by the noise of them coughing. By the end of the journey you’re convinced you have whatever they have.

It’s not that bad, though. It sure beats walking in the snow. S.H.

The Performance

Sometimes it feels like I’m in a Michael Palin documentary series … I hope I’ve got the right hat on?!

Under the guise of a cultural experience, I was invited to a friend of a friend’s kid’s dance performance. I happily accepted this invitation, as I liked all the people involved, and lamented that I hadn’t quite seen enough of children’s theatre so far this year.

The venue was a square building lost within the walls of not unattractive apparments, most not too high and with cute adornments on each small balcony. Double doors pushed open, and suitably sweltering heating conditions encountered within, we stood in wait for some form of organisation to arise.

The main lobby of the place was as regular as you could expect, with child and parent alike darting here and there like a flock of starlings in a tree. However, as the number of flitting blonde haired kids increased, the room grew smaller, the salmon pink walls now dangerously close to doing my eyes some permanent damage. Soon the pressure was almost too intense, as personal space became a palpable joke, and theoretical at best. The crescendo of this was the decent down a nearby staircase of a plump and jovially mannered lady. It was quickly clear she was a dance teacher, as the previously whizzing action of children fell into a regimental two-by-two line At her feet. We took our seats, in baited breath, and looked towards the stage … But it wasn’t really a stage at all.

As far as I could tell it was an elaborate version of duck duck goose, complete with Honkey Tonk piano player and a room full of camera opporators. The performance ended in a rousing call to arms, imploring the new youth of today to brush their teeth less, always ask for more sweets and above all, poke your tongue out at as many relatives as was possible. After a rousing applause, Facebook feeds were checked, videos on phones rewatched, and the crowd dispersed. This was the start of the Xmas season, and there was more, oh much more, to come … S.H.

A Sunny Afternoon in SW6


“What the bloody hell was that?!” I thought to myself with fury, startled a little and nearly losing grip of my camera.

It turns out it was a middle aged woman, walking down the street towards me. She’d made the demonic grunt before then muttering something about hating pictures being taken. I was in the midst of taking a shot of a building site, nowhere near the Mediterranean looking lass, so wondered what her bother was. She passed me, staring with an ill tempered look about her lightly tanned face, but said nothing more.

“Chill out. It’s a sunny day,” I offered politely in her wake.

No reply.

Well it was. Quite sunny in fact. But this was Fulham in its many splendid nutshell – the beauty with the beastliness.

I continued on, unperturbed, and soaked in the sunny disposition of the day. And it was there to lapped up, after lunch and in between commitments, the river was sparkling in a gentle way that left me warm, despite the one degree air temperature.

But it wasn’t only the river, low and kissing the edge of Putney, Fulham’s riverside neighbour. The streets were lulling me too. The clean scent of cold stone mingled peacefully with the calm sunlight, and barely another person did I pass as I wend through the small inner houses of the area and south towards the Thames. From rooftops orange bathed vistas gazed down upon me, small gardens and hidden perches calling, a little away from the bustle. Dancing lights from shiny window panes did their best to entice me too, like gentle fires, giving south facing homes a polished look of burnished gold.

The fifty something crow and her grumpy groans did little if anything to spoil the moment. But London does that to you, I find. Britain in general. It puts you in a readier mood to make the most of what the winds can bring. If it’s sunny in the UK, you’re much more likely to tell yourself to get out and make the most of it … You don’t know when you’ll get another chance to look upon a sky that isn’t grey!

All in all, the interlude in my day was short, but it brought before me a curious array of characters, all doing as I was, and taking a little time out of the day to enjoy the day …

A regally dressed businessman, casting his thoughts out into the water.

A group of gulls bathing in the shallows.

A lost looking girl plotting her next move.

A dog and its owner beaming like lost lovers.

A man sat by a deserted playground, as if keeping watch to make sure that no fun was had by any child, of any age.

And then there was me, taking my share of vitamin D, and glancing over my shoulder every now and then, keeping an eye out for the grunting woman, paranoid she was the president of some ant-photographer league.

Well, you never know.