I’m not somebody with a down on taxi drivers. Frankly given the standard of driving you see on the roads, I’m just surprised that professional drivers who spend a lot of time coping with the rest of us haven’t resorted to drive-by shootings to cull the worst offenders.
But anyway, there was this taxi. I was going downhill on the quad, towing a trailer. The driver was coming uphill towards me. Now the lane is narrow, there is nowhere on that lane where I could squeeze past a car.
So the taxi keeps coming at me. I stopped. The taxi driver shrugged. I jerked a thumb over my shoulder in the relatively universal gesture which means, “Do you really expect me to back a trailer uphill when you’ve just got a car to back?” To put it in perspective, we’re talking about backing forty yards down a gentle slope, with a slight bend. It’s probably an easier task than the reverse they make you do when you take your driving test. Certainly we’re not talking about anything as tight as is shown in the photograph.
To be honest I’d have been faster backing the trailer. I mean I’ve seen ‘interesting’ driving in these lanes in my time.
For example there was the person in the little Fiat 126 who backed back for us and somehow ‘bottomed out’ and sat there with their wheels spinning uselessly. We got past them and then gave them a push until they’d got traction and were on their way again.
Or there was the lady in a large white delivery van. In her case I could see her point, you might be able to back the vehicle, but if you’re just using your mirrors, then you cannot see what is on the road behind you. So I acted as her banksman, we got her back ten feet and then stopped her. I opened a field gate and took quad and trailer into the field to let her past. So we’re willing to work with what we’ve got.
But now I’ve got this taxi driver. At first I thought they were trying to back close to the hedge so that I could squeeze past. Admittedly it wouldn’t have worked but still, it was a gallant effort. I stopped thinking this when they backed so far up the dike cop that they were in danger of rolling their car.
At this point they pulled forward and had another go and did the same on the other side. So they pulled forward again.
Sal our dog looked at me and I’d swear she had a worried expression. It was the look of a dog who feels that somehow she ought to be sorting this out and wasn’t entirely sure how to start. Guilt was written all over her face.
I tried to smile in a reassuring manner and she turned her attention back to the taxi. This had now slewed across the lane and for one moment I wondered it they were trying to turn round. Well that was another gallant plan that wasn’t going to work. Sal sank down closer to the road. Whether this was because she was coiling up ready to spring into action and sort things out, or whether she just hoped if she clung close enough to the ground nobody could see her and it wouldn’t be her fault.
Eventually, after almost rolling the taxi twice, our intrepid driver made it back into the wide level bit. We went past them and Sal watched with evident relief as the taxi disappeared up hill and out of our lives.
Oh, and for the truly discerning ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks.’ Now available in paperback or as an ebook
A collection of anecdotes, it’s the distillation of a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. I’d like to say ‘All human life is here,’ but frankly there’s more about Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep.
As a reviewer commented
“This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”