In Conversation – Of Coffee and Banter


[Source] —

I must have looked like shit knackered, or something close by all accounts, if the look the lady at the front desk gave me when I dragged myself, knapsack in hand and windbreaker open all the way down at the front, across the stoop to her desk to get signed in for the day was anything to go by. I was here at my old stomping ground from a few years ago to attend a training course – the first two days of which had lurched from plain boring to an absolute waste of the thousand pounds I’d managed to fork out for it. That my on-off insomnia was back in full pelt could not have helped – four ibuprofren plus notwithstanding – I had flitted in and out of sleep till 6.30am, at which time I gave up, brewed a cup of coffee and got my day started.

You didn’t get chucked out of your house did you? she finally asked as she rummaged in her desk for my temporary pass. She did have good reason to ask I guess – seeing that it was only 7.30am and the course was not meant to start for another hour and a half. I must have mumbled something – I was sure what I said was that I had being caught in two minds about stopping over at the office for a few minutes before heading on here – but she somehow inferred that  I’d had to take the earlier bus as the next one would not be for another hour.

In the end what excuse I came up did not matter as she proceeded to pour me a steaming cup of coffee and then dumped me a chair next to her whilst she made a few phone calls to the course coordinator to come get me. It turned out he would not be ready for another half hour, so we did the next best thing we could – which was have a natter over coffee.

It turned out that she had two children in the same ball park age as I was – a son at 34 and a daughter at 29 – whose favourite past time was trying to pull the wool over her eyes, much like I had tried to do, apparently. Clearly this sussing out business was one she had gotten very good at – not that it mattered anyways. Not unlike BritishKitchenWitch, my day had threatened to start off on a bad note; between the banter and fresh coffee, it was well on the way to being saved.

For Day 9 – Get Inspired By The Neighbours

Cabbie Conversations

On a typical day, the scene that meets the eye at the head of the airport taxi rank is one of barely controlled chaos – the line of passengers snaking along into the distance, two or three cabs pulling up every few minutes to whittle away at the edgy crowd and the harried dispatcher somehow managing to maintain a semblance of sanity in the middle of it all defining the mad half hour immediately following the arrival of an inbound flight. Today there is a line of taxis and no passengers waiting. Two men – and a woman – stand at the head of the taxi rank, talking. Their conversation is deep and intense – there are hands flailing about, gesturing wildly and a few guffaws here and there – such that I have to clear my throat to attract their attention. At the second time of clearing my throat, I succeed. They split up like people surprised, maybe even a little guilty. The woman – who must be the dispatcher given her fluorescent yellow jacket – waves me  in the direction of  the car at the head of the line, a jet black Audi. One of the men standing and chatting turns out to be the driver, his keys remotely  popping the trunk as I dump my bags and as he makes his way to  the driver’s side of the car.

Traffic is light as we make our way off the taxi rank and join the road towards town. At first we ride in silence, me fiddling with my phone, he keeping his eyes trained on the road. When he speaks, his choice of ice breaker is to ask where I have come in from. He guesses London – I correct him  – Manchester. I add that it was boiling hot, almost summer-ish out there. He smiles – a neither here nor there version that reeks of resignation. Through the windscreen, the sight is one of grey clouds, overcast. The road itself has the slight sheen that can only have been from a light shower.

Hasn’t really been warm up here, he says, in response to my question as to how it has been up here. Not that I would know, he adds. He goes on to explain that he is the designated carer for his 86 year old mother. Taxi driving – this gig – is his diversion, his chance to escape he says, to get air and space. Feisty woman she is though. Between her and my wife, I get all the orders I need to obey.  I nod sagely through it all and laugh out loud at the gag about getting orders. We moan mutually about wives and being ordered about – my imagination standing me in good stead.

Weather gripe done, we move on to our next favourite subject – holidays. I explain Manchester wasn’t a holiday for me – exams, I add. Corrosion and Materials – when he probes further. That brings a glint to his eyes. His son works in the rust business too, or used to, before decamping to the subsea projects world. The bugger is well paid from the looks of it he says. One senses a slight element of resentment beneath the pride.

We talk a bit more as we inch forward through the traffic towards the Huadagain round about, Aberdeen’s best known traffic bottle neck. Over the course of the next ten minutes he muses about his early offshore career – pressure testing subsea modules for the Brents 30+ years ago, being involved in a few other commissioning projects before returning to the tried and tested fishing boat. I might have made a ton of money myself if I’d stayed working offshore, he says a hint of regret in his office.

I mention that the Brents are being prepared for decommissioning as we speak – end of life and such like. It’s a life time since his days. By now we are parked outside my flat. I thank him, pay the fare, £17.20 – he gives me change back unlike his compatroiot down south – and get out to grab my bags, life, death and re-birth taking centre stage in mind all over again.

Bait and Switch…


My father, very much like me, is not a great talker- the sum of our conversation over the course of the year is little more than fifteen minutes. In the main these – 3 minutes here, 2 there, and 5 there have mainly come about as intermissions, snuck in between typically lengthy conversations with my mother – if her constant probing and interrogating can count as conversations. When I wake up to find a couple of missed calls from him on my phone , a whatsapp message from my kid sister, and a BBM message from my brother – all relating to the fact that my father has been trying to get hold of me- it sets the alarm bells in my head off. After arriving from my weekend trip to the middle of nowhere (link) I ordered the largest, most decadent pizza I could from PapaJohns – with a barbecue chicken side- devoured it and promptly fell into my bed for sleep, which was how I ended up oblivious to the clamour for my attention.

Resigning myself to whatever it might be, I call him, bracing myself for whatever it might be. It turns out, it has to do with a conference down south he wants to attend- he wants guidance on visa applications, money transfers and all the associated arrangements required to smoothen his first trip out of Nigeria in a while. it was from my. Not quite any of the urgent, life threatening things my mind had invented then. we chit chat, a bit after that, work at mine, failed driving test and all get a mention, and then an uncomfortable silence. My unease increases exponentially.

So…. He begins, have you called K yet? I haven’t and really don’t intend to. She is the doctor daughter of a friend of a friend of Mum’s whose folk perhaps as agitated by the lack of visible progress towards marrying as mine are have somehow dreamed up this match.

I explain, I’ve had a lot on my plate- offshore, work, eyeing a job change and the like. I assure him I have it on the front burner though..

My father disagrees, by his estimation, if I had even a hint of seriousness, I would have placed the phone call to K, and or being on a flight to nigeria already. He thinks I’m overly focused on progressional development .

You know, people are worried too, they ask me what’s happening all the time.

By now my irritation has built up a head- the people who are worried won’t be in a marriage with me I interject. I may have overdone my curt ness as he falls silent, our little attempt at detente dying as quickly as it rose…

The resignation in his voice is palpable. It’s alright, just call her, OK?

I mumble a response back, just before I terminate the call… Bait and switch, classic…. My folks are getting better at this!!!