Celtic Illumination, part 347, How now brown cow
I suppose many of you can understand the motive behind most of what the double top secret cabal put me through. Take for example the prime minister of the UK at the moment David Cameron. How many people look at him and see nothing more than a spoiled public school boy who had been buggered rotten by every other boy at the school. Most people look at him and state that he has never had a real job in his life, what does he know about real people? When I take the throne of Ireland, with your help of course, not many people will be able to say that about me. I am talking about the job of course, not the buggery; I can honestly say that I was never aware of even the slightest rumour of that at our school. Mindless violence yes, plenty of that, along with cold showers, a daily dose of mass in Latin and the realisation of how alone you could actually feel when standing in the middle of a crowd.
So although you may think that my new job of airport transfer driver was just something I came across, we all know that that would never be the case. Once again, there was no driving test, and you would think that for a driving job you would at least be asked to show how well, or badly, you could drive. I mean those of us who do drive know only too well the varying standard of drivers that we meet on a daily basis. It was more or less agreed that I would be given the job so I waited at home for a telephone call. When it came I was told that I was to be trained that evening by Norman, the night controller. Lugga Bus was based in Southport which would have been one hour’s drive from Manchester airport with Skelmersdale neatly sitting in the middle. Norman was taking two elderly ladies from Southport that evening to Manchester airport, I was to be picked up from my house and accompany them up and down to the airport.
I wasn’t sure how I should prepare myself for such an intense training course, so I did nothing, but wait. When the van pulled up I went out and got in. Norman was one of those chunky middle aged men who had tufts of hair bursting out from his collar and cuffs. I wasn’t sure if he had twenty air fresheners in his cab, or wore cheap aftershave, but I did have a strong desire to open all the windows. He wore lots of oversized jewellery, which I could never understand why men wear. Tell me, identity bracelets, how often do you forget your name? To complete my picture of Norman, which I am sure you have pretty well formed in your mind, please now dress him in the most garish Hawaiian shirt you can imagine. The sort of shirt that is so loud it would give you a headache.
The cab of the vehicle was littered with maps and magazines, chocolate bars, cans of soft drink. Imagine that you are taking a caravan away for a week’s holiday. Pack everything you will need, for your weeks holiday, into the caravan. Take the caravan, hold it by one end and give it a good shake, everything will fall out of the cupboards and collect at the far end of the caravan, that’s what the cab of Norman’s van looked like. Norman proved to be a very chatty fellow and happily explained the ins and outs of Lugga Bus to me as we sped along the motorway. I have to say that if I were the boss of Lugga Bus and gave each of the drivers a driving test before taking them on to the books, Norman would not be working for the company. He explained that the company operated cars and vans and offered a three tier service. People could book a specific car or driver and that would be theirs exclusively. Second tier was that people booked a private trip so that they would have a vehicle to themselves, which could either be an eight seater van or a car.
The third tier, don’t you just love the British and their fecking class system, was that you booked a trip to and from the airport and you might find yourself with six other people wedged in to a van, on the other hand you might find yourself in a private car on your own. It was as they say the luck of the draw. Each vehicle was equipped with a radio so that not only could the company in Southport keep track of us but we could share traffic information and plan ahead ensuring that the passengers got to the airport in time. It was a twenty four hour a day service so there was usually always somebody out on the road. It was quite a clever operation, especially for the passenger, for no matter if your flight was delayed, or diverted, there would always be someone waiting for you, so that within five minutes of you clearing customs you would be in a vehicle, heading home. No worries about if your car would start, or how much the car park would cost.
We arrived at Manchester airport, I leapt out, grabbed a trolley as instructed, put the ladies cases on it and waved them away promising that we would be waiting for them in a fortnight. That was it, that was the end of the intensive training course. I could see that TPT may have some fierce competition. The company used countries as call signs for each vehicle so I became known as Ireland, imagine that. I had to wait a day or two before I was asked to come through to Southport where I was given the one vehicle that belonged to the company, well; Arthur really. All the other drivers were self-employed and owned their own vehicle. At the beginning I wasn’t that aware of the social geography of the area, but I soon did begin to get a bit of an understanding of how and where people lived.
What I soon found out was that everyone was posh, and I mean dead posh, apart from me of course. I was ‘the driver’ but not only was I the driver I was a bloody foreigner. As a taxi driver you know that almost every single person that gets in to your cab is going to ask you, “Have you been on long?” It’s like blessing yourself every time you pass a church in Ireland. What do you mean you don’t, fecking heathens? I soon became used to the one question that I was asked over and over again. “How long have you been in our country driver?” Initially I wanted to punch the cheeky feckers in the mouth but I learned to bite my lip, as they say, and smile and nod. “Ever since I joined your air force,” I would say. But now they would ask, “And now you’re doing this?” I could see that my consideration was correct that driving a taxi would not be regarded as socially acceptable employment, well; not in the proper circles, and it pleased me.
I soon learned that most people felt that I was socially beneath them. I was the forelock tugging, simple, Paddy who would carry their cases for them and drive them to and from the airport. There was a big difference between driving a taxi and driving the airport transfer bus. In a taxi you might spend, on average, five minutes with a passenger but now you would be spending an hour with them and although some people were far too grand and important to so speak to me, most were desperate to tell me just how important they were. Many people would give us a tip for conveying them across the county, the people from the posh houses would squeeze a fifty pence piece into your hand, making me feel very like Bob Cratchett on Christmas day. Sometimes their generosity would simply pour out of them and they would give you one whole pound.
These were the people who would complain that they shouldn’t really be sharing the vehicle with anyone else, they were quite important people don’t you know, couldn’t someone else pick the others up? All they had to do was pay a couple of quid extra when then booked and they could have had the vehicle to themselves but I suppose important people are far too busy to consider things like that, or someone else booked it for them. I had a van full one day, four or five pickups in and around the back streets of Liverpool, Aintree in fact, near the racecourse. I loved driving all over, meeting new people and seeing new places. With my eight working class Scousers safely on board we set off for Manchester airport. They were off for their fortnight in the Spanish sun and were all quite excited. I still got the usual question although they would ask, “How long ave you been over here mate?” There would be no deference or superiority suggested in their tone.
Spread around the area were a number of celebrities, there were all the millionaire footballers, well-known actors and musicians and many of the drivers would scramble to try and get one of the elite into their vehicle. I count myself lucky as along with never begin interested in football I could never bring myself around to get involved in celebrity worship. And for those clever clogs among you who think that with me being a ghost writer I was involved in the world of celebrity worship anyway, you’re wrong. I was happy driving working class people about, chatting with them, laughing with them, and learning with them. In fact it was this group of eight people that confirmed that view for me. We got to Manchester airport; I leapt out and grabbed four baggage trolleys, so that by the time they assembled at the rear of the van, I was already dumping their suitcases on to the trolleys. I promised to see them in a fortnight and went through the rear of the van checking that they had left nothing behind. I got back into my driver’s seat to find the passenger door being opened and one of the eight lean in to the cab. “This is for you mate. Thanks very much,” says the fellow handing me a handful of cash. A twenty five pound tip, for a forty minute drive. Tell me, what social class would you try to stick with?