Virginia Barton

5 March 2016: Taxis

5 March 2016: Taxis


5 March 2016


Of necessity travel as been by taxi recently, lots of them, for short trips. My insatiable curiosity concerning other people’s lives and backgrounds has the driver spilling the beans in no time. Since they, the drivers, are invariably under thirty this doesn’t take long, perhaps the distance between home and the supermarket or the surgery. Yesterday an Albanian took the outward journey and an Afghani brought me home.

The British weather is the usual ice-breaker, followed by the current traffic situation. These established, more personal details may be probed.




Yesterday my drivers were both married and fathers of several little ones; old fashioned family values are alive and well in the taxi driving fraternity it would seem. The wife of the Albanian was working shifts as a nurse to fit in with his taxi driving and two young boys at Primary school. He was philosophical about his job, and comforted himself that even the drunks were not in his car for long and the money was good late at night. He could put up with the swearing and abuse for the average time it took to get unruly or revolting passengers home.

His views on the In/Out campaign re the European Union were fascinating. He was tempted to vote for leaving, but I do hope that some of my arguments rubbed off on him. His elderly  parents had gone home despite all the “advantages” of life in the UK; social isolation and the rain sent them homewards.


My Afghan driver had a lovely new Toyota hybrid whose merits, tricks, and treats he showed me with great pride. He talked non-stop all the way home about his good wife, how much he loved his three boys, especially the new baby, and what a fine country Afghanistan was.

“So beautiful with mountain, with lake, with school, with doctor.”

Pause for melancholy chewing of gum: “But no peace. Is no peace.”

By this time his eyes (and mine) were full of tears.


Usually I ask chaps like these two if they plan to go home. The answer is invariably the same:

“When the kids are grown.”




  • Jack L says on: March 5, 2016 at 6:09 pm


    Has the “Uber” phenomenon come to your town yet? On this side of the Pond, Uber is multiplying like rabbits and fast becoming the preferred alternative to the traditional taxi.

    I’ve found them surprisingly efficient, easy to order on your phone and pay (cheaper fares, too). It does take some getting used to riding in someone else’s car, but these do tend to be spiffier than our grungy yellow taxis.

    • Ginny says on: March 8, 2016 at 3:24 pm


      Uber has not broken into Oxford circles, yet but I know they have run amok in London, causing considerable ill-will among the traditional black cab fraternity.

      Who/what is Uber? Is it a Trump or Murdoch venture?

      Yesterday my taxi failed to materialise at all, so I walked, not a bad thing either… Ginny

      • Jack L says on: March 8, 2016 at 3:28 pm


        Uber was founded in 2009 by two enterprising San Franciscans in their mid-thirties. Today the company is valued at $63 billion. Not a bad thing either!

  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: March 6, 2016 at 7:00 am


    My most recent minicab driver was a Ugandan who ran several businesses back home, spent six months out of the year here, and gave me an analysis of the recent Ugandan elections which was worthy of publication in the Economist. English his third, not even second, language. Quite humbling.

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