“So Frank says to me, ‘say something in Cockney,’ so I say ‘apples and pears’ and he says, ‘what does that mean?’ and I say ‘stairs. It means stairs.’ So he laughs and says ‘tell me another’ and I say ‘nice whistle and flute’ and I tell him that means ‘suit’. ‘How about that, Lillian?’ he says to his missus, only she don’t hear ’cause she’s a bit mutton.
“So I say ‘What do you do, Frank?’ and he says ‘I’m in oil production in the States’ and I say ‘do you mean you have these things?’ and I do this…”
Les turns round in his seat to mime us the action of an oil drill. In truth, I’d prefer that his hands were on the steering wheel and that he was looking at the road ahead but it seems a bit churlish to interrupt the story.
“Like an oil drill, right,” says Young Lochinvar. Pretty perceptive for a chap who’s spent most of the day under general anasthetic at the London Hospital having his face reassembled after proving conclusively that gravity is still working. Though we may want to stockpile it, just in case.
“Anyway, Frank says ‘that’s right, oil drills – we’ve got plenty of those. Well, I share them with my brothers.’ And I say, ‘have you got a spare one for me?’ and he thinks that’s hilarious! ‘Do you hear this guy, Lillian? Have you got a spare one?!’ Only she don’t say nothing, being mutton, you know.
“So anyway, I drop him at the Hilton in Park Lane and he says ‘can you wait here for a minute? I’m going to need you again,’ and he has a word with the doorman and arranges for me to pull in the waiting bay. So I’m sitting there for – well, it must be about twenty minutes – and I’m starting to get a bit impatient, wondering what’s going on, you know. Then he comes out of the hotel and he’s got this envelope and says, ‘I want you to have this.’
“And I open the envelope and there’s only a thousand quid in there!”
“No!” we say.
“Yes!” he says. “And Frank says, ‘this doesn’t make a difference to me but it might make a difference to you and I want you to have it’.
“So, I get out of the car and give him a big hug. And then I kiss him on the forehead, which I think he finds a bit surprising. Course they didn’t believe me back in the office. Did you say you needed a cash machine? This garage’ll have one.”
I dash through sleet to the cash machine, working out how much will cover the fare and a tip. If the oil tycoon story was being told by way of a serving suggestion, I fear it’ll have missed its mark.
But no, back in the cab Les has moved on to telling us about the time he nearly met Ronnie O’Sullivan and in the matter of mere moments, it seems, we’re pulling up outside the house.
It’s been a long, long day – fourteen hours at the hospital – so we’re cream crackered; YoungLochinvar’s boat race looks like a combination of Hannibal Lecter and a vampire; and we’re both gasping for a cup of Rosie. But we’ve been looked after by a succession of people doing their jobs with care and with kindness culminating in the world’s (second) best cabbie. Young Lochinvar’s face will heal and all manner of things will be well. To which I can only give a heartfelt Tom Hanks from the bottom of my daisy roots.