Tag Archives: taxi driver

About this lockdown thing everybody’s talking about

Six days shall you labour and on the seventh rest. Except when I took this photo it was Sunday morning, and we were pretty much guaranteed showers tomorrow and heavy rain on Wednesday. So the reseeding has to be done now. And time off in lieu? That’s not an agricultural term.

After they’d finished ploughing, just out of interest I walked the field. If you plough the fields adjacent on the west of this one, the sheer amount of pottery fragments you find is impressive. In one field, there’s never more than a foot between one fragment and the next. Basically these fields were fertilised from the contents of the dry closets of Barrow. People used to drop ashes from the fire and broken crockery into the privy to help ‘soak up’ any liquid. They would be emptied onto carts and the carts would be emptied on farm land handy for town. I would say, from the sort of pottery that comes up, Dundee Marmalade was very popular back then. We find a lot of bits of broken jars.

But in the field just ploughed, there’s virtually no pottery. So obviously it wasn’t ploughed much before the First World War.
Whilst steep, it isn’t ridiculously steep. I ploughed it many years ago on an old David Brown 900 pulling a two furrow plough. Given the tractor was rated at forty horsepower, and peak output from a horse is about 15 horsepower, it isn’t all that much more powerful than two horses pulling a single furrow plough. It would be faster, but probably a damned sight colder working.

One problem with the field is that the soil doesn’t bind like you’d expect. The turf somehow is never all that well attached. Given I’ve seen it reseeded two or three times over the years, it isn’t just a phenomena of one particularly unfortunate seed mix. What happens is that when you brake on the slope, the piece of turf your wheel is on just sheers off from the ground and slides across the surface.

This has happened to me during hay time when everything is bone dry and it’s happened in winter. Indeed I’ve seen it happen to cows who tried to stop too rapidly and discovered they were still moving even though they were standing still. 

One year when we were silaging my father was coming down one side of the field with the tractor pulling chopper and trailer. On the last bit of the slope he must have touched the brakes and the whole outfit jack-knifed. We had to go in with another tractor and pull the jack-knifed outfit forward to untangle everything.
My father fired the chopper up again and there was apparently no damage done so he dropped that almost full trailer off, picked up an empty trailer and carried on around the field. At the top of the field, fortunately as he was going across the level bit, the chopper drawbar just fell into two parts. My father with tractor and six feet of chopper drawbar continued forward, the rest of the chopper plus the trailer stood obdurately immobile and we had to call out the agricultural engineer to get things clagged together again.

But looking back over the last year, as far as I can see, agriculture has worked normally through the pandemic. Yes there’ve been restrictions on who can and cannot loiter around the ring at the auction mart, but you cannot plough by zoom. Vets and agricultural engineers have continued to appear on farms, as have our usual contractors, delivery drivers etc etc. We’ve probably been a lot less isolated than many other people, but I know that we’re getting worn down by it eventually. So how it’s been for people trapped in flats and small houses I shudder to think. I’ve family caught in that situation so my heart goes out to everybody in these circumstance.

On the other hand there are times when I do get a bit irritated by all these BBC programmes which start with ‘And now that we’re all stuck working from home’, and then sharing their discovery that out there are people who are buying themselves ‘fashion pyjamas,’ because that’s pretty much all they’re wearing nowadays.

Whilst in some regions anywhere up to 60% might be working from home, in other regions it’s less than 40%.

Then we have the various demands that our heroes be recognised. Actually I’m really in favour of this

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbyoccupationenglandandwales/deathsregisteredbetween9marchand28december2020


Farmers don’t feature in this list, (unless we’re tucked in among the food, drink and tobacco process operatives) and frankly I don’t think we’ve regarded ourselves as heroes, we’ve just go on with it, and the year as gone round much as years do. I found it interesting to look at the trades that have kept going. Catering had to keep going for those who still worked, but of course, also for those working from home who fancied not cooking tonight. Metal working etc. is just keeping things going. Taxi drivers are a group I feel have been unsung. Round here I would put them high on the list of key workers. I remember following a taxi down a Barrow street and he just stopped. I wasn’t sure why and then I saw the driver helping an elderly lady into her house. When he’d got her safely inside, he then carried her shopping in. Both sides of the street were parked solid, so he just had to block the road and we just let him get on with his job. For a lot of people it’s cheaper to walk or get the bus to the supermarket, then when you’ve got your shopping, just get a taxi home. The taxi might be a little dearer than the delivery charge, but you’ve got exactly what you wanted and managed to get the cheap offers as well.

So when they talk about heroes, let’s just remember the taxi drivers.

Deaths from covid 19 for men

  • restaurant and catering establishment managers and proprietors (119.3 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • metal working and machine operatives (106.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • food, drink and tobacco process operatives (103.7 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • chefs (103.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs (101.4 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • nursing auxiliaries and assistants (87.2 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • elementary construction occupations (82.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • nurses (79.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • local government administrative occupations (72.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • bus and coach drivers (70.3 deaths per 100,000 males)

Deaths from covid 19 for women

  • social workers (32.4 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • national government administrative occupations (27.9 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • sales and retail assistants (26.9 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • managers and directors in retail and wholesale (26.7 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • nursing auxiliaries and assistants (25.3 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • nurses (24.5 deaths per 100,000 females)

The sad thing is, they’re not heroes, they’re just ordinary people just doing their ordinary job in an extraordinary time.

There again, perhaps that’s what being a hero is?

♥♥♥♥

There again, what do I know? I’d leave thinking to them as can.

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.

The problem of the badly herded taxi.

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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.”

And the stories just come crawling out on their own.

x

Back in school we had to read John Steinbeck’s book ‘Of Mice and Men.’ It was two books in one, the other was ‘Cannery Row’ which rapidly became my favourite Steinbeck book. There isn’t really anything that you’d call a plot, there’s people and places and stories which just seem to happen. But there again, once you know an area, the stories just come.
If I walk out of my back door, take the lane right, cross three or four fields (I’ll be purposely vague here) I’ll come to where my Father said the old ‘Tossing School’ used to be held. You’ll have heard of ‘pitch and toss’ or ‘Two up’ as our Australian friends call it. The working man’s gambling game.
My Dad told the tale from when he was in farm service on a farm four or more fields to the other side of the ‘Tossing School’. One Saturday he’d finished work later than everyone else and went into the house to get washed and changed before going out that evening. Back then all the ‘men’ slept in the one attic room. As he was washing; one of the other men came and proceeded to empty money out of his pockets, boots, gaiters and shirt. He’d been to the tossing school and had got lucky. He’d come back to ‘bank’ his winnings before going back for another go. Dad helped him count the money. There was about thirty pounds there, (they would have been on between two and three pounds a week.) and apart from a few ten shilling notes, it was all in coin.
I remember ten years ago, one of the metal detectorists telling me he’d come across a lot of pennies scattered over a small area which is shielded by the hedges on three sides, so I guess he’d found at least one site.
If I keep walking past the tossing school and drop down to another lane; I’m not far from the farm where my Dad was in farm service. He and another lad had gone into Barrow one night and somehow they’d missed the last bus home. My Dad shrugged and assumed they’d just walk the couple of miles home. (It wasn’t unusual, when he got engaged to my Mum, he spent too much on the engagement ring and they didn’t have the money left for the bus fare so they walked four miles home that time as well.) But I digress; on this occasion his companion had other ideas.
“We’ll get a taxi.”
I don’t suppose Dad would have been more surprised if it had been suggested they flew. Farm labourers didn’t have money for taxis.
Anyway he allowed himself to be persuaded. Before they got in his mate said, “Stick with me and keep your eyes open.”
Dad was nothing loathe, never having ridden in one before.
When the taxi got to the bend in the lane just across there, Dad’s mate said; “Just slow down here, it’s a bit tricky.” As the driver did, the mate had the door open and was out. Dad hurriedly followed and they climbed over a gate and disappeared into a field. From there it was only a five minute walk across fields home.
I’ve a mate who’s a taxi driver and when I tell that story his eyes water. But then he has his own tale. One of the drivers who works for the same firm he does got a call on the radio to collect a chap from a certain house. He collected the chap who wanted to call in at a specific corner shop and then go on somewhere else. The guy, wearing his hoodie, went into the shop, and the driver sat with engine (and meter) running. Five minutes later the fare came out of the shop, got into the taxi and gave the driver the final destination where the driver dropped him off.
Then he got a message over the radio, “George, can you come into the office please.”
So George drove to the office where he’s met by the Police. His fare had robbed the shop, taking the money from the till and had made a clean getaway.
Except that the CCTV had provided the taxi’s number plate.
And the driver not only knew where he’d picked up and dropped the fare, he knew him because he was a regular.
And it turned out that the fare had paid by credit card when he’d booked the taxi.
I’m only a writer; I’m not allowed to make stuff like that up.

♥♥♥♥

As I said, I make stuff up

As a reviewer commented, “I am a keen reader of the fantasy genre and looked forward to reading this book. The story is engaging and there’s lots of action, some humour and a little pathos. The characters all worked well for me, especially Benor, Cartographer (and much else!) The story deals with a land which has its own races of people, its own herds of animals and I found it interesting to imagine this other world which is in many ways an equivalent of our medieval world. There’s plenty of intrigue here and the story has potential for a sequel.

Jim Webster has an engaging story telling style and a good knowledge of this genre. His writing has a gentle humour which comes naturally from the characters and their dialogue. It’s not played for belly-laughs but is very effective. There were some real gems, which I very much enjoyed. ‘He spat on the floor and missed’ really tickled me! I look forward to more of the same.”