Posts Tagged ‘taxi’

The first blackberry

A few days ago, I was walking home and I spotted a single ripe blackberry.

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In my excitement, I thought about giving it to Danda…. But then I remembered what happened last year so I ate it myself….

(I posted this in October last year.)

This is a story. A story that I am calling Danda And The Blackberry. It contains adventure, daring, far away lands and valiant mission.

One day, a few months ago, I was out walking. I was listening to Vanessa Paradis’ ridiculous but catchy hit, Joe Le Taxi as I roved. I was pottering up and down hills and following the river through London and having a lovely time. The summer was at that lovely not-too-hot, just-a-slight-breeze stage. The leaves on the trees were green and I stopped often to photograph the beautiful flowers.

I was having a lovely time. That’s when I saw it. The single ripe blackberry on the blackberry bush…

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Ah! I thought. Look what the summer day hath delivered unto me. I shall pick this single ripe blackberry and present it as a gift to somebody.

But to whom should I give this beautiful gift of the summer’s first blackberry? Hmmm.

And that’s when I thought, I shall give it to Danda. Because he is a taxi driver, he is quite often on the move and I thought he might be in the area. I gave him a quick call and he was nearby but he was taking someone to the top of the hill that I was at the bottom of. So, thought I, I shall race to the top of the hill and hopefully see him there.

Off I sped, bearing the summer’s first blackberry aloft. It was quite a long walk and really quite steep but I was on a Blackberry Mission and determined. As Danda drove up the hill, I walked as quickly as my legs would take me. He was held at a red light for ten seconds or so. This gave me the edge. Holding the blackberry gently, I power-walked through fields and past trees. I was determined. Danda’s taxi was approaching the top of the hill just as I hurried to the end of the path and out onto the pavement.

It was like someone had organised us, like chess peices, to collide at exactly the right moment. We reached the bend in the road at the same time and waved. Danda drove a little further down the road to drop the person in his taxi off while I stood panting a little and trying to regain my composure.

A minute or two later, Danda was back. He pulled over and I climbed in the back.

“Danda!” I declared with great aplomb, “I have brought you this blackberry from the Alaskan wilds, from whence I have come after my long exploration there.” (Not really, I had just been wandering around aimlessly by the Thames but that’s beside the point. Stick with me on this one.) “I have brought this, the first blackberry of the summer, to you, as it reminds me of your summery disposition and your great love of blackberries.” (He once said he’d had an apple and blackberry crumble which was tasty.)

He looked a little uncertain about the grandness with which I presented the blackberry to him but nevertheless, he took it, popped it in his mouth and ate it.

I waited, with baited breath for his verdict.

Silence.

“Danda. What of the beauty of the blackberry? Do you approve of it?”

“Mmm….” He said, nonchalantly. “It’s a bit sharp….”

Silence.

“Do you want a lift anywhere?”

What I am doing right now

I’m sitting in Danda’s taxi with a flask of lukewarm tea that I threw in there in a hurry. Most of it spilt on the table.

I have my trashy Mills & Boon book next to me as the original intention was to tell you about this fabulous book called Scandalous Innocent which has been written as an historical romance novel about Ham House.

I was also going to tell you about how I spent yesterday evening doing a Ham House jigsaw.

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I’ve got my bag for work with me and my new cool National Trust name badge thing.

I was going to make a cake this morning. Probably more a tart than a cake. With ground almonds and lemon zest and redcurrants.

I was also supposed to bring the antihistemene cream with me because I got a bee sting seven days ago which has today decided to swell up.

But all that has been thrown out of the window because instead we are rushing off to the hospital to see the newest addition to the family, a baby girl called Mia!

Woop woop! Photos to follow.

Things that blow my mind

Space. It is literally mindblowing. There so much of it. There are so many universes and planets and stars and it goes on and on. When that guy skydived from space to earth… My mind EXPLODED! Sometimes I can’t even watch space programmes on TV because there is SO much to understand, I don’t even know where to start. It’s so epic.

Telescopes. Same as space, sort of. I just can’t believe how I can look in a little tube thing in my garden and see something quite clearly that is a billion billion hundred million miles away in the sky. (Don’t quote me on that figure.)

Bees. Of the last ten days on my blog, I think four have been about bees. They’re so amazing.

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The Romans. The fact that so much of what they made survives today. The fact that they got to so many places around the world. The systems they invented which still exist today, eg the rule of law.

The people at Pompeii. Because that’s real actual people who were actually alive two thousand actual years ago. And actually had lives and walked around Pompeii as real people and lived there. Actually lived there. Mind blowing.

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I asked Danda what he thought I should write next and he said, “Danda.”

I asked, “Cause you drive a taxi so well?”

He said, “No, because I just blow your mind. I’m just amazing. I’m just. Amazing. And I make a good cup of tea.”

Now, this is true. He does make a good cup of tea. So he is allowed on the list.

The time I met Danda at the airport

A little while ago, Danda jetted off into the sun for some Portugal-based fun. I was supposed to be away at the same time but due to some nonsense rules in Texas prisons, I had to postpone it. So I was here and Danda went and had beach fun with family.

On the day Danda was due home, his flight was getting in at 23.15. I left the house at about 10pm and, anticipating boredom, took a Narnia book with me, Prince Caspian to be exact. Now Prince Caspian is a pretty good book, not very like the film apart from the basic story. There is no romance between Caspian and Susan and no rivalry between Caspian and Peter.

Anyway, there I was, on one train then the next, head in my book, wondering if Prince Caspian would beat Miraz and would Aslan come back and help by waking up the trees. There was a lot going on, you know?!

I got to Gatwick and took the shuttle from the South Terminal to the North, head in my book. I got to the North Terminal and looked on the arrivals screen. Danda’s plane had landed and the baggage was in the baggage hall. He’d be about fifteen minutes yet. I might as well chill for a few minutes.

There was a Costa coffee next to a doorway and a sign saying ‘UK arrivals’ above it. Well, I thought, he is arriving and we are in the UK. That must be where he’s coming out. I grabbed a bottle of water, sat within view of the doorway and got reading.

Then Danda called.

“Hi, have you landed?”

“Yeh, where are you?” Danda asked.

Now I’m a girl who loves doing surprises. I love them! I think that’s why I love Hide and Seek so much. And that’s why I said, “Just reading on the sofa.”

“Ok, I’ve just come out so I’ll be ages yet.”

O, he’s only just come off the plane so he’ll be a little while yet, I thought, whilst burying my head in my book again. Still, no-one had come out of the gate I was sitting by, which I thought was a bit wierd. I gave it another ten minutes, then thought something was up. I got up and walked to the arrivals screen and suddenly saw it… The international arrivals gate….

Ah, UK arrivals meant arrivals from other flights within the UK… Not just that we are in the UK. Of course we’re in the bloody UK. As if they would have specified where we are!? Hmm… Top dunce points to Laura.

So I needed to be at the international arrivals gate, not the UK arrivals gate… To be fair, they’re not that far apart so it’s not like I was miles away but I was all taken up with Prince Caspian so I was oblivious to it all.

I stood outside the international arrivals gate for a minute but felt something was wrong. There was no-one coming out. I had to give up my surprise fun and just call Danda…

“Danda, where are you?”

“I’m just on the bus to the car park to pick up the taxi. Why?”

“I’m standing at the international arrivals gate….”

“No! At Gatwick? You’re there?”

“Yes, I came to surprise you but I’ve missed you.”

“O no! Let me get the taxi and come back for you. Where exactly are you stand….. beeeeeeeep.

His phone died. I called back. Nothing. Just the answerphone. Again and again. Eventually I just had to go out to the road and hang about, hoping he would be able to find me.

So for ten minutes, I stood there, in front Gatwick airport, stranded and unsure whether I’d be picked up.

That’s right, I came to meet Danda at the airport and I ended up stranded, waiting for Danda to pick me up.

Well done, Laura. Well done.

*He found me quite easily and I invented a cover story about having just been at the toilet when he came out the gate. It made me sound less stupid.

Palm House (Part 1)

It’s Wednesday and time for my guest blogger, Rambler5319, to take over again. Enjoy!

 

Not just any palm house – the one in Sefton Park in Liverpool.

The park’s history goes back to 1867 when the council bought the land from a local earl. They paid £250,000 which in today’s money would be of the order of £40 million (some calculators go much higher than even this!) Imagine any council even thinking of spending that amount of money on a park today. Actually it wasn’t much different then as there were protests about it being a waste of money. Time, though, has certainly proved its benefit to the people of the city and further afield.

A big competition (international) was held and the winner was a French landscape artist named Édouard André and Liverpool architect Lewis Hornblower. (Hornblower had designed the Grand Entrance to Birkenhead Park – designed by Joseph Paxton – the first municipal park in Britain and he’d also worked on Princes Park just across the road from Sefton Park.) It was opened in 1872 by 22 year old Prince Arthur (3rd son of Queen Victoria).

About 24 years later, the city council received a donation of £10,000, from a rich local man, Henry Yates Thompson, to build the Palm House. It opened in 1896. It’s an octagonal shape and built on a base of red granite which they brought down from the Isle of Mull. At each of the corners there is a statue of a famous person chosen by Thompson. Naturally he picked mostly botanists and explorers. We’ll do a tour round the outside this week and go inside next week.

Let’s start with a view looking at the front entrance to the Palm House.

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The statistics are amazing: it’s 25m high and there are 3,710 individually-cut panes of glass. It was painted in camouflage paint in 1939 to prevent the glass reflecting moonlight which would help enemy bombers locate areas of the city.

The structure fell into disrepair during the 1980s and following a big campaign and raising funds and grants it was re-opened in 2001. Just think about this – in order to refurbish the place they had to remove all the plants and then dismantle the whole structure (made of cast iron) so it could be sand blasted. The firm that did this part had to number every single piece of metal so it could be put back in the right place. Talk about jigsaws, this must have been one tough job. (I certainly wouldn’t have fancied it!)

We’ll go clockwise round the building looking at the guys who are commemorated in bronze and marble and see some of the beautiful gardens and flowers. I wonder how many of these you know?

1. André le Notre (1613-1700)

A landscape artist who designed the gardens at Versailles for Louis XIV. Also designed St James’ Park in London

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As you can see he’s in marble. Now I’m not a sculptor but check out the scroll he’s holding. I reckon that must be quite difficult to do.

2. Captain Cook (1728-79)

Famous as an explorer, navigator & cartographer and for his voyages of discovery particularly Australia and New Zealand. He was a captain in the Royal Navy. On his 3rd Pacific voyage he was killed when fighting with Hawaiians. The sad thing is that he had actually left the islands but a mast on his ship (Resolution) broke and he had to return to make repairs and it was during this time that the quarrels started which ended in his death.

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Check out the inscription on the base of his statue in pic below: “Constantly at sea from his youth he passed through all the stations belonging to a seaman from an apprentice boy in the coal trade to a post of captain in the British Navy”. In other words he started right at the bottom and worked his way right up.

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3. Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594)

The base says he was “the son of a poor shoemaker near Antwerp”. He was a Flemish astronomer & geographer. He invented the system of mapping which we still use today and by which your mobile phone knows exactly where you are: lines of latitude & longitude. We almost forget how revolutionary this was because we’ve never known living when it didn’t exist. The nearest I’ve ever come to it is when I lived abroad in a place that, for a while, didn’t have street names. People navigated by buildings or geographical features including the taxis. It moved on rapidly and has a totally modern system with street names and a GPS guided taxi system which was considered one of the most sophisticated in the world when introduced four years ago.

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4. Carl Linnaeus (1707-78)

He was a Swedish botanist, physician & zoologist. He is the founder of the system of categorisation of plants called taxonomy or type classification. Interestingly, it is said, his family conversed in Latin so his familiarity with the language when naming plants is perfectly understandable. Apparently the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau sent him the following message: “Tell him I know no greater man on earth”. That’s quite a compliment isn’t it? Goethe, the German author, wrote of Linnaeus: “With the exception of Shakespeare and Spinoza, I know no one among the no longer living who has influenced me more strongly!” Wow, talk about being respected by your peers. This guy was a giant.

However he also had a massive ego. In his own writing he made statements about himself that might surprise you. He wrote in an autobiography: “No one has been a greater Botanicus or Zoologist. No one has written more books, more correctly, more methodically, from his own experience. No one has more completely changed a whole science and initiated a new epoch. No one has become more of a household name throughout the world…”

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5. Charles Darwin (1809-82)

Probably the most famous of the names in this list. He wrote the book On The Origin Of Species in 1859 upsetting the church and Victorian society in general. Whatever your views on him the “Theory of Evolution” remains just that – a theory. Nuff said.

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6. Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)

Explorer and discoverer. Popular views credit him with the discovery of America but that should be qualified of course to the European discovery of America. Native Indians were already there and other nations can lay claim to having visited the place long before Columbus: Norse explorer Lief Erikson is believed to have been there around 1000AD & some believe the ancient Phoenicians could have visited. Obviously the name America doesn’t come from Columbus but from the feminine version of Italian explorer Vespucci’s first name Amerigo. Why if Columbus discovered the land was it not called Columbusia or Columbusland? How did that not happen?

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7. Henry the Navigator (1394-1460)

He was the 3rd child of King John I of Portugal and his wife Philippa of Lancaster (sister of Henry IV of England). In the complicated intermarriage of Royal families in Europe, Philippa of Lancaster was a daughter of John of Gaunt – the “Gaunt” comes from the anglicising of his birthplace (Ghent) in Belgium. He himself was a son of the 4th Plantagenet king, Edward III, and Philippa of Hainault. (Now there is a Hainault in north-east London but this one is a county in Belgium. Philippa brought Belgian weavers over to England to start up businesses in Norwich. In the late 16th century another wave of weavers arrived fleeing religious persecution in Holland & Belgium. Interestingly these guys brought their canaries with them and local people also began rearing them. And that historical event is how Norwich City’s football team got its present-day nickname – The Canaries. So now you know where it came from.)

Henry was born in Porto and from the age of 21 he began exploring the coast of Africa. He was intrigued by the Christian legend of Prester John who was allegedly a descendant of one of the Three Wise Men (who visited Jesus at his birth). Supposedly PJ was the king of a Christian nation which had been lost among the pagans of the Orient. His kingdom was said to contain the Fountain of Youth! It’s no surprise he didn’t find it or that people are still looking for it today, not in Africa, but in the consulting rooms of the plastic surgeon!

In 1420 Henry was appointed a governor of an organisation called the Order of Christ. This group had succeeded the Knights Templar which had been disbanded by Pope Clement V in 1312. He remained in charge till his death in 1460.

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8.John Parkinson (1567-1650)

In his time he was a famous herbalist and one of the first English botanists. After moving to London in 1581, at 14 yrs of age, he became an apprentice apothecary. He then rose up the career ladder eventually becoming apothecary to James I and later Royal Botanist to Charles I.

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Here’s one last statue. As you’ll probably recognise, it’s Peter Pan.

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And here’s the inscription on the base

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It says it was on the Royal yacht but I wonder just where on the Royal Yacht “Victoria & Albert” they put this. Looks a bit hefty to me but perhaps it was just the Peter Pan himself part at the top and no base. Interestingly Queen Victoria had 3 Royal Yachts named Victoria & Albert: the first launched in 1843, just 6 years after her accession; the second in 1855; the third launched in 1899 but was not ready for service until 1901 which, sadly, turned out to be 7 months after her death.

Anyway there we are, that’s all for this week. I’ll have to keep the flowers outside till next week when I’ll do the inside of the place itself.

Interview with a Danda

See what I did there? Interview with a vampire, interview with a Danda… Here are a few basic facts about your favourite Danda before we get started.

1. He likes ice cream.
2. He drives a taxi.

Hello, Danda. How are you feeling on this fine Sunday morning?
Yeh. Alright.

Rumour has it that you recently watched The Sweeney starring Ray Winstone. Was it your opinion of this film?
Unprintable.

What is the silliest thing anyone has ever asked you in your taxi?
I was driving under the Picadilly underpass with some Americans in the back and one of them said to me, “Is this the tunnel where Princess Di was killed?”

Regale us with a story from yesterday’s taxiing.
One of our local colourful characters, Jeannie, was spotted walking down the middle of the road waving her hands at cars to try and stop them. She was walking all shuffly because her knickers had fallen down around her ankles. I did not stop for her, unfortunately.

How do you feel about Laura’s new project in which she aims to live more responsibly?
So far, the cooking’s good.

What is your favourite book in the world?
Well, the books that I can read and re read and still enjoy almost as much as the first time I read them, are the Flashman books.

Would you say you have become “reliant” on tea, much as one would on drugs?
Yes.

What is your favourite thing Laura has cooked?
Oo, so many to choose from. Er. Thai chicken curry.

Why won’t you let Laura have a chicken in the garden?
Cause I’m mean.

What is your opinion of Laura’s blog and is it your favourite blog in the world?
Laura does a blog?!

How do you feel about breakfast?
Don’t eat breakfast.

And now, the question that stumped Gordon Brown in the incident now known as BiscuitGate…. What is your favourite biscuit?
Chocolate digestives. No problem with that one.

…Cor, is that it, Laura? Not exactly Jeremy Paxman, are you? There was no really hard questions at all was there.

And that, my friends is the end of this interview with Danda. I feel we can all learn something from the things we’ve read here.

A dream I had last night

I had a strangely long and obscure dream last night. It went like this.

My friends, Sophie and Jay, and I were in Australia. We were travelling and having an adventure type of holiday. I remember us going to a shopping arcade place which had those cloth bag things which are brightly coloured and part of the general attire of people who have recently returned from a gap year. At one end was really expensive stuff so we never went to that end.

Suddenly it was our last day and we had to get our flight home at 2.15pm. It was only a few hours off and I started to panic. Sophie and Jay didn’t seem too worried and next minute, we were doing that thing I’ve seen on TV, where you have suction pads on your hands and feet and you climb up the side of glass buildings. I had the hand bits and was climbing up and when I got to the top, Sophie and Jay were already there somehow.

When I started looking for the suction things to climb back down I couldn’t find the feet bits and I started to panic again because I thought we’d miss the flight. I really didn’t want to miss it because if we had to buy tickets to get the next flight it would cost at least £70 (!).

Somehow we were back down the side of the building and it was 1.15pm and we rushed back to the hostel where we were staying and asked the people at the desk there if it would be faster to go by train or taxi. They said taxi so I ran to the room to get my backpack. The other two already had theirs with them even though they hadn’t gone to get them. Such is the way of dreams ….

When I came back to the reception, Sophie and Jay weren’t there. They had gone for lunch somewhere. I panicked. I saw their bags but there was only an hour til the flight. I didn’t have time to wait for them! I ran outside, flagged down a passing taxi and jumped in.

I got to the airport with ten minutes to spare, yelling at them to hold the plane. I checked in and started to run to the gate but it was really just one big room with one gate. So I just stood there and one side of the building was glass so I saw a small plane come in and land on a grassy area right next to the building. The other passengers and I marvelled at its smallness. There were only about twelve seats.

We walked out to get onto the plane but suddenly there was a swampy bit we had to cross so we got wet up to our knees. I also realised that in my rush I had forgotten to check my bag in so hoped no-one would notice it.

As I got on and sat down and strapped, Soph and Jay were there too and Jay was pregnant. She had been pregnant the whole time, I think, but I had been unaware of it for some reason. And Sophie was saying to me, “I can’t believe you left us,” and I was going, “Well, I looked for you all over. If you two were going to be stranded in Australia, there was no point me being stranded there too, just for the sake of it.”

They seemed especially annoyed that I had left them with Jay being pregnant.

We were just strapping ourselves in and having this discussion when my alarm beeped and when I opened my eyes, I was genuinely surprised that I wasn’t on a plane.

Strange.

Analyse that, psychologists.