Booking a business trip at the last minute is something I tend to do rather a lot. Though with me, last minute really does mean last minute. On this particular occasion, the cab was on its way to whisk me to Luton airport, and there I was still browsing the web at some unearthly hour to compare car hire prices for a hatchback from Geneva airport.
It can all be a bit stressful, but I have to say that these kind of crazy, frenetic, last minute business trips are usually the best for me. For a start, you have no great expectations for the meetings ahead, so a half decent outcome actually feels a great deal better; and secondly, by the time you arrive, you feel absolutely shattered from all that nervous energy, so you tend to sleep like a log, which I find beneficial before any important meetings. Anyway, I digress.
By the time I’d sorted the car hire, the cab driver had been sitting outside for five minutes. For me, that’s not bad at all. I’ve been known to keep cabbies waiting for much longer.
No sooner than plonking myself into the back seat, the driver was off. And I’m not referring to the forward trajectory of his vehicle. No, I refer instead to his remarkable ability to talk rather articulately and incessantly.
Now, by and large, most cabbies I’ve come across either want to talk about football, their need for a holiday on the sun, or, of course, the number of famous people who had sat in the very seat that I now occupied. This chap was different.
“What do you make of those latest insolvency figures they’ve just issued then?” he asked. And then without waiting for an answer, he provided one. Well, actually he provided more than one.
“They reckon company insolvencies in England and Wales have gone up by 6.5% year on year. Do you know how many that adds up to?” And then again, without waiting for my response, “I’ll tell you what that adds up to: 4,242. That’s what. It’s a bloody disgrace.”
I made some kind of sympathetic grunt, and the driver continued.
“I tell you what that represents. It represents 1,203 compulsory liquidations and 3,039 voluntary liquidations. And that geezer. What’s his name, you know the big cheese economist?”
“George Osborne,” I proffered.
“Nah, not that pillock. No, that Howard Archer bloke, the chief UK economist. Now he says that this rise is down to the lack of growth in the economy, plus the rise in oil prices and commodities.
“Well, you don’t have to be Albert Einstein to work that one out, do you? I reckon I could do his job. But I can tell you this: it’s just the tip of the bloody iceberg. You wait and see. You mark my words, there’ll be loads of small companies in the public sector who are going to suffer from cut backs in government spending. And if the banks, who created this mess in the first place, don’t start lending and continue to make it difficult to access credit, we’re all going to be stuffed.”
It wasn’t perhaps how that nice Evan Davis would have put it on Radio 4. But essentially he was absolutely right. But then, cabbies, from my experience, usually are.
Alex Pearl is a freelance copywriter and author of ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’.