Every morning between nine and ten, especially if it’s raining, Barnes is full of diesel Renaults & Peugots, minicabs called to the high rise flats around the pond. The drivers, who won’t get out of their cars, switch off their engines, turn up the radio & beep their horns. The women, mainly the wives of international bankers & entertainment executives, lean out of a fourth floor window & shriek, “Cammin dahn! Cammin dahn!”, to appear later in a black leather coat, dragging a fractious toddler.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Inside, the cab is equipped with No Smoking signs & Halfords air-fresheners. The blue-grey nylon fur upholstery has soaked up all the characteristic smells of affluent west London from Chiswick down to Richmond, kebabs, sweat & some expensive perfume you can’t name. “AH. FORKEY,” says the despatcher very loudly. “Is anyone near Church Street ? FORKEY ? Church Street, anyone do me Church Street ? GRON,” & is lost in a burst of static.
“Where you want to go ?” the driver asks eventually, with a kind of neutral exasperation. He drives with his eyes fixed on something in the top left hand corner of his windscreen, especially at junctions. He is able to repeat the words “Kings Cross” as if he has never heard them before. Rain shatters the light on the windscreen. You eye the A to Z on the front passenger seat. Suddenly he says, “Cabalists speak of the breaking of the vessels. The World being unable to contain the Godhead, there was a kind of overflowing: there were ‘sparks in everything’. This is the central issue of the Lurianic Cabalists.”
“I think we need to avoid Hammersmith,” you say.
“It has clear implications for your book. Both phrases would make excellent chapter titles. The second would also make good dialogue.”
“I did once imagine a vast lion crouched on top of the Lloyds building.”