Well, we aim to please, sir. Most London cabbies see themselves
as ambassadors for the city, part driver, part tour guide. Dave
slowed the cab before the junction with Sussex Gardens, allowing
a Hispanic woman wearing a fur-trimmed denim jacket to shepherd
her great shelf of bosom across the road. He sensed the fares
approbation like a sunlamp on his bald spot. Now to the right here,
sir, almost all the property between here and Baker Street is owned
by the Portman family; not a lot of people realize how much of
London is concentrated in the hands of a very few, very rich people.
Thats very inner-resting.
Im glad you think so, sir, and this road were driving up, you
mayve noticed that its very straight for a London road, thats
because its the old Roman Watling Street.
You dont say. I do fucking say. I fucking know. I know it all I
hold it all. If all of this were swamped, taken out by a huge fucking flood,
whod be able to tell you what it was like? Not the fucking Mayor or the
Prime Minister thats for sure. But me, an umble cabbie.
Yes, if we were here seventeen hundred years ago, we mightve
seen a legion marching off to Chester, on its way up north to duff
up a bunch of blue-painted savages.
The cab, its wipers eek-eeking, pulled away from the lights and
scraped by the concrete barnacles of the Hilton tucked beneath the
Marylebone Flyover. It was late lunchtime on a wet December day,
so the shop windows were lighting up. Dave tried to imagine who
who he knew might be the type to have pitched up in a room
there, for no other reason but to smoke crack with brasses from the Bayswater Road and rape the minibar. From some dark rank in his
memory a recollection pulled away: Superb Sid, Sid Gold . . . picked
im up last year outside the Old Curiosity Shop . . . He was looking
pretty fucking flush, pretty pleased with imself. Bespoke fucking whistle,
cashmere overcoat, the whole bit. He wouldntve done me any favours if
Id reminded im of the perm he used to sport at school. He became a brief,
didnt e, criminal fucking brief in both senses. Gave me his card. Ponce.
Still, hes the type Im gonna need because that Cohen cow aint gonna
come through. If Im gonna see the boy again, Im gonna have to get some
dirt on that cunt Devenish. There has to be some . . . there always is . . .all you gotta do is dig.
My oldest son would be fascinated by this stuff, said the fare,
whod relaxed now they were trundling past Little Venice and up
through Maida Vale. Hes a history geek . . . gets it from his dad, I
guess. The fare looked about him at the five-storey Tudorbethan
apartment blocks, and, as if taking comfort in their solidity, unglued
his hands from the handles and at last eased himself back in the
Dave hit the intercom button a plastic nubbin incised with a
hieroglyphic head: Yeah, I always think of Watling Street as a sorta
time tunnel, connecting the past with the present. Whats the point
in knowing theres a time tunnel there if youve got no one to go down it
with? Now I understand that I learned this city to hold in my mind for a
while then lose it to my boy. Without him its starting to disappear
like a fucking mirage.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...