Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A taxi home, in 1996

It was four am in the City, the night inky and wet. I entered the black cab to take me home, as I had done on so many other nights. Usually, after giving directions, the journey passed in silence – London cabbies are rarely as talkative as the stereotype. This time round however, the slightly balding driver kept the sliding window between front and rear sections open.

‘Been a busy night guv?’ He started, his voice an authentic cockney chirpiness, his head tilting slightly up in listening mode, reaching for my face in his rear-view mirror. My brain was in permafrost after eight hours of faffing with Word and Powerpoint for stressed corporate finance types in a fluorescent spaceship. After a few seconds of thawing, I was able to reply that it had been busy. We then exchanged some light banter. I told him I needed a holiday, he asked me if I had somewhere in mind. I replied that we were planning to go to Nigeria – my wife being Nigerian. This prompted the following memorable monologue:

‘Nigerian woife eh? I’ve got a Thai woife meself,’ he confided. ‘I went online and picked her out from a set of pictures. Coowse, I went to see her in the flesh before I made any decisions…its only right innit?’

‘I went to Bangkok, met her family, her sister. They woz right pleased that she’d met a white bloke, especially a white geeza from England. Treated me like royalty they did.’

‘Anyway, I brought her back wi me a coupla years ago. We got marrid n’all. I gotta tell you, it’s fakin great. A lot a wimmin these days in England are right stuck up caas. They want to make awl the decisions, call awl the shots. It ain’t right. It just ain’t right is it guv?’ He looked at me in the mirror again, asking the question. I grunted approval, to keep him going. The cab had crossed London Bridge and was speeding towards the Elephant.

‘See, my woife, she does everyfin’ a man needs and wants. When I get home, she’s made the dinner, laid the table, everyfin’. I sit daan, she gives me my knapkin, then she serves me dinna. Its beautiful, just like should be.’ Really? – I prod him phatically onwards.

‘Them Thai wimmin, they got wot we’ve lost ain’t they? Like, back in the Victorian days, wimmin was wimmin and men woz men. Then it all got messed up wiv feminism innit? But the Thais, you see they’ve still got it - what we had. The women are so happy to serve their guvnor, give him everfin' he wants. Its fakin great, if you’ll pardon my French.’

Silence filled the cab. I could not muster a response at 4:20am. The interior smelt of rubber and plastic, a spick and span, nearly-new smell. We were on Wandsworth Road, headed for my place in Battersea. I pictured the cabbie, paunched and balding at a shiny mahogany table, a slender Asian beauty in silky uniform standing by as he slurped and chopped. I felt sad for the world, and the thousands of convenient transactions of this kind that weave lives together.


St Antonym 8:25 pm  

Amazing and brilliant. Well done, Jeremy.

Shango,  9:19 pm  

Have you stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, the Thai woman loves her husband enough to do all that for him? You just can't project your philosophy on someone else like that, mr. liberal, live and let live man.

Oyibo women are going to be the death of Western civilization: it's happening already. The birthplace of what we now call Western Civ is slowly "un-breeding" itself out of existence: Greek (and Italian, and English, and French, etc.) women don't want to have children. The descendants of Sophocles, Plato, Aristophanes, and Socrates are going to die off, because oyibo women are "independent" and don't want anything to do with smelly, dirty children which are sucking up all our "meager resources."

My Talking Beginnings 9:42 pm  

Hilarious! I can just imagine the cabbie myself! one of my good friends is half thai born to a thai mother and a scouser father! It's amazing the stories she says herself...not unlike the one mentioned in your piece...

Jeremy 9:45 pm  

You're on fine form today mr Shango. What about this for a thought though - that when freed of social pressure to produce babies (in the weakened patriarchal systems of the west), many women actually choose not to, in preference to pursuing their career or other interests, just like men.

It appears your head is quite deeply lodged in the sand when it comes to ecological and population issues.. We'll need to hire a mechanical digger...

Anonymous,  10:38 pm  

Jeremy you need to accept that some people will not agree with your point of view. Just because certain groups are freed of social pressures doesn't mean its a good thing. Look at the issue of homosexuality in Africa and the Carribean where it is frowned upon it is sparse but it thrives in the west

Jeremy 10:52 pm  

Anonymous: I take the point. Limitations can paradoxically lead to the greatest forms of freedom. But then again, how free can you be when you have to bring up two or three kids and Dad is hardly ever around?

On the homosexuality point - let's not go there. There's been some quite furious debate on this blog and others (Black Looks etc) on this topic in the past. All I will say is that people who think that homosexuality somehow 'thrives' in the west but not elsewhere are seriously deluded..

Shango,  11:43 pm  

Why these deluded women are doing what they're doing is up for debate, what will happen is already happening: the west's population figures show they are not having children fast enough to ensure what is known as a replacement rate.

If only a million babies are born in 2006, it's hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they're running out a lot faster than the oil is. "Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--is 2.1 babies per woman.

The bottom breeders of the world are almost all in the west. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%.

Still want to debate who has their head in the sand?

Global warming is a farce. Hope you live long enough to realise this, scientific figures or no. If I'm wrong, we die, if I'm right we die, so what does it really even matter? What does matter is the question: what do we leave behind? You and your wife, nothing. Me and mine? Nothing either, cos we're one of those ultra-chic non-breeders.

kemi,  10:34 pm  


Jeremy, I hope the cabbie wasn't THIS POOR GUY

Those Thai women do not love the husbands but the security of the relationships, and while there's nothing wrong with that, people should not flatter themselves to think that there is any genuine feeling or affection involved.

Look at the wife of Ken Bigley for instance. As soon as her husband had been captured in Iraq, she packed her bags (and no doubt all the family treasures) and moved back to Thailand ages before he lost his head!

No desperate pleas in front of the camera like all the normal English wives who truly cared whether their husbands lived or died.

Transactional relationships have their place, as everyone caveat emptors innit?

Ngozi,  8:32 pm  

shango please don't be stupid.

you obviously don't know what crap women would put up with.

the arrogance of some men. love keh. if she was middle class and wealth she won't even go near that type of man.

keep on fooling yourself.

it's your kind of nigerian man who suports subservience.

like women are just robot pieces put on this earth to serve men.

Ngozi,  8:35 pm  

and who is the fool who thinks homosexuality is sparse in africa?

everyone of them are so afraid of the violence of your ignorance that the downlow is rampant!!

abi, aids and hiV is a heterosexual disease.

Review of Bangkok Hotels 8:55 am  

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's very informative. I love to read it and do hope to read your next story.

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