Celtic Illumination, part 349, Ignorance is strength
I have to admit that Arthur, the boss and owner of Lugga Bus, was like most other small business men in England and hadn’t a clue what he was doing. The company survived, but only just, there was no such thing as long term planning just the blind hope that the company had managed to continue for so long and that it would continue to do so. He had no employees, everyone was self-employed, and so he had no real responsibility. If work was in short supply then that was tough. Many of the guys had secondary occupations, like myself. One fellow was a taxi driver in Southport and also fitted under floor safes. So the company was always on the lookout for new business as I suppose we all were.
Arthur had managed to convince a local business man to invest in Lugga Bus. The fellow provided a mini bus, road legal with private hire licence, he established an account with a garage where the vehicle would be serviced if needed and opened a petrol account where I could just call in and fill up. Now I had my own bus, well; sort of, I was the only driver for it and it was kept at my house. There were no advertising signs on the vehicle, the only give away or tell-tale sign was the taxi licence pate attached to the rear of the vehicle, a small six inch square of plastic. It was one Friday night, just past midnight and I had dropped some people off in Southport. Lord Street is the main, central, road in Southport and contains a number of blocks of flats occupied by a majority of retired people. I had pulled over to the side of the road and was checking my paperwork.
There were still lots of people about and they moved between clubs and pubs and restaurants. I was quite surprised to hear the side door of my van slide open. I thought it may have been one of the other drivers, working on the taxis, who had noticed me and stopped for a chat. But it wasn’t, instead half a dozen revellers piled in and were telling me that they wanted to go to the Paradox nightclub in Liverpool. My first problem was to check and see if there were any Hackney taxi drivers around. If any of them had seen a group of people climbing into my vehicle they would report me. I could only carry passengers who had pre booked and would be included on the lists I carried with me.
“Can I have your name?” I asked, which once given I wrote on my sheets and drove off. I wasn’t stupid and had listened to the other drivers, as long as there was a name, a pick up and drop off point on my sheets I was covered. I couldn’t really work out who would stop and check me as I doubt if the police would want to get involved in such a serious license violation. As I began to think about the situation I realised how stupid the whole thing was for the work sheets I referred to would be thrown in the bin at the end of the day and there was no master copy held at the office. These jobs were known as ‘foreigners,’ and I know a lot of the guys depended on them to survive, whereas I only took them if they presented themselves at an opportune moment. I didn’t go out of my way to look for extra work and I did calculate how much fuel I would have used for the foreigner and would replace it in the vehicle, for if I hadn’t done that then I would have been guilty of theft.
Theft is one of my pet hates along with thieves and unfortunately Arthur came across a routine job that had me transporting a van load of thieves to and from work each day. I was initially told that I would be working with a publishing company between Manchester and Ormskirk. As you may imagine I was quite excited, you never know what sort of contacts you can make or what information you can pick up. I would have eight passengers which would be picked up from their home addresses in and around Manchester each weekday morning and dropped at one location, in Ormskirk. I would then pick them up at five in the evening and take them all home. The other drivers all turned their noses up at this sort of work, mainly because as regular passengers there was never any tips given, and the fellows who had Lugga Bus as their main full time occupation depended on the tips.
I have never been sad enough to have done any form of course on hospitality or customer service standards, so I’m not daft enough to think that it is acceptable behaviour to tell a customer to, “Watch your fecking mouth!” However for my first pick up with this new group of publishers I found myself in Ormskirk. They came out; one was in a wheel chair and asked to sit in the front seat. One of the group seemed to be his friend and lifted him from his wheel chair into the van. I took the wheelchair to the rear of the van and stored it away. The remainder of the passengers climbed in to the rear of the bus and I settled myself into the drivers eat. “Know where you’re going Paddy?” said the fellow in the front seat, the one with the working legs. I hope you will agree with me that it was completely acceptable to tell him to watch his fecking mouth. I waited for his reply and was quite happy to turf the lot of them out of the van had he not apologised immediately and asked what they should call me.
We drove off introducing each other and getting to know one another, well; as best as you would want to. The two fellows in the front seat were ex Royal Marine, don’t they just get everywhere. The one in the wheel chair had been trying out a very powerful motorcycle without wearing a crash helmet and was now well and truly buggered for the remainder of his life. I was disappointed as I had hoped people associated with publishing would have been more demure, or considered, I had hoped for long drawn out conversations about books and authors but this lot gave me the impression that they were not that interested in the literary world. They had to listen to Radio One, the youth radio of the day, absolute rubbish, unless you are ten years old. And all they could talk about was football and soap operas.
I know that I often complained that at boarding school in Ireland we were only allowed to watch one television programme a week and we would always vote for Top of The Pops, the only other television show we ever saw was the moon landing. And soccer too, we were not allowed to watch or play soccer which I am so thankful for these days for I see people whose whole life is taken up with either daft football or soap operas. It was also around the time that reality television was starting to grow. I shouldn’t really complain about the amount of cretins who glue themselves to the latest so called celebrity fad as I was actually negotiating with the members of one reality show for a series of books. Every time I encounter something like that I wish that I had been able to meet George Orwell who was co correct with his predictions. But there lays the problems, he wrote books, how many people these days actually read books?
I listened and talked to this group and discovered that they were not really publishers, they produced single sheet calendars. You know the sort, one year planner in the centre, surrounded by adverts. Publishers my arse, they were telephone sales canvassers. They pretended that they worked for a police magazine helping charities and in some cases pretended they were police officers. To make this situation much more disgusting they actually bragged that only one percent of the money they raised went to a charity, the remainder was split between them and the boss of the company. The boss was well known locally as the fellow who had famously been caught snorting cocaine off the bonnet of his Mercedes sports car. To not have control of your brain and watch the X Factor or Dancing On Ice or some other form of mindless drivel can be explained away with social manipulation, but to be proud of stealing money under false pretences I found was really upsetting, especially where they crowed that the most generous people were the Irish.
I was so incensed that I actually contacted the Irish radio show that broadcast my sketches and gave them the story, and the contacts to check it out, but nothing every came of it. I hated the thought that some decent hard working business person was sitting in Ireland actually thinking that they were helping some form of charity or another when in fact they were just getting ripped off. But are we not back to the same old situation where this is business and I just don’t understand? Such a shame that those with the, ‘Get up and go’ required for business so often find themselves filling buckets with money rather than contributing to society. But then, hey, what do I know, I was just a bloody foreigner doing foreigners. By the way, just to back up my words, here’s a link, http://www.qlocal.co.uk/Ormskirk/news_list/%27Scambusters%27_raid_Ormskirk_offices_in_fraud_enquiry-52261594.htm