When the taxi drew up outside on Friday evening to take us with friends Mark and Nita to the Vincent Hotel for a meal, I did a double take; our driver, complete with silvery stubble and wooly hat was the spitting image of The Last Of The Summer Wine's Compo. Fortunately he wasn't wearing wellies and driving a bathtub but he gave the impression that he shared Compo's reputation as a bit of a ladies' man.
'Where to?' he asked.
'The Vincent Hotel'
'I know it. I took my girlfriend there - cost me £100. Well £50 as she paid half. She lives down XXXX Road. I used to drop her off in my taxi. Never thought I'd have a chance.'
We didn't dwell on his Nora Batty for too long as he went on to tell us about all the beautiful young women he drove in his taxi. There's the local beauty queen - "lovely she is" - and the stunning young Lithuanian - "absolutely gorgeous" ; she gave him a kiss on New Year's Eve but unfortunately she's only a teenager and he's sixty-three.
It may have all been bravado and he's probably totally harmless but it was an unusual conversation and I would feel very uncomfortable about Marion taking a taxi alone with a driver like him. Our friend Nita felt the same and I can imagine a fair few women having uneasy late night journeys home from a night out in town.
We had a very enjoyable meal. The food at the Vincent is not special but it's good, there's a very wide choice, the service is friendly and there's a real buzz about the place. Our friends couldn't understand how a meal there cost Wayne Rooney £250k as I wrote on this blog - so, for the sake of clarity, I should point out that he was fined this sum by Sir Alex for breaking club rules and going out on a night when he was supposed to stay in.
I see that Sir Alex was back in the news again this weekend with his comments on Luis Suarez's refusal to shake hands with Patrice Evra. He's really enjoying piling on the agony for Kenny Dalglish at the moment. After the totally inept handling of the whole affair by Liverpool FC during the last couple of weeks, the statements from Kenny and Suarez over the weekend bore the stamp of influence from on high. Both sounded like naughty schoolboys told by the headmaster to apologise; I imagined headmaster JW Henry saying 'Now Kenny and Luis What have you got to say to the class?' and them staring down at their feet while giving their responses 'Sorry sir'. An abject end to a dismal affair.
I read a tiny book yesterday; in fact The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman is so tiny that I read it all during a session on the exercise bike at the gym. And it was so enigmatic that I read it a second time when I was pedaling again today. Although the book opens with a real situation - an armed man (in a purple hat) walks into a bank, fires into the ceiling and tells everyone to lie on the floor - before long it's apparent that if Kaufman was an artist he would be Salvador Dali rather than Rembrandt; the book becomes a series of fables after each hostage hands the robber the most precious item they have with them and subsequently weird and sometimes wonderful things happen to them. The fate of Stacey, the wife of the title who starts to shrink, is the central theme of the book but half a dozen or more small parables are cleverly interwoven into it - the author has crammed a great deal into eighteen short chapters. The book could be open to several interpretations and I'm sure that this was the author's intention but I was left (quite appropriately on the eve of Valentine's day) with an overriding message of the importance of love. This is a book that you'll either love or hate and you may take some time to decide which but, after the second reading, I'm in the love camp.
And on the subject of love and Feb 14th, we're off to FACT in Liverpool tomorrow to see Romantics Anonymous. I know that going to the Silver Screening (free tea and biscuits for pensioners) at 12 noon is hardly the stuff that dreams are made of but it's the only screening of this quirky French love story and it should set the tone before we head to The Monro later for a Vaelntine's dinner.