September 2007 – May 2008 (as far as translated), England

September 2007

The situation (last year): I had written five books and translated four, stressed myself like a madman and am 15000€ in depts. I don’t even find the time to look for a publisher (of course no publisher finds the time to look for me) the media, local media, mind you, isn’t that interested either anymore. I’m on a burn-out with migraine-attacks, do a job I hate, sell a book any other day and talk ever the same twenty times a day. For each job one can wait for an hour. The woman I love has obtained an injunction against me not to contact her anymore. In short, circumstances are desperate but hopeless. The kind of desperate but hopeless circumstances that cries out: off to new shores! Desperados of all countries unify, hire at Columbus or as Sherpa at some Himalayan expedition. Someone get me out of here!

The plan: What to do to become rich, famous and surrounded by flocks of women, only to turn them down in the end of course, to be once and for all peacefully and happily unified with the lady of my heart!? I will drive a cab and write books about it in five different European countries! Tough? No, tough is to get them published. But with my mixture of naive charm, self-irony and sheer grim bulldog determination I know I will make it! The achievement: Someone get me out of here? Well, best go to some tropic island, island in the sun, island with “the Sun”…? Heck, let’s got to England!

Second step, England: Brighton. I took the decision to go there rather early and started to learn roads, so that I was that advanced, some when, there would be no way back anymore. That was when, in my limitless naiveté, I thought it would be about time to have a look at the town! Well, to begin with, how did I make the choice for Brighton anyway? Besides London it was the only English town I’d ever spent time in, worth to mention, a sort of language holiday of four weeks and back then I decided thus for I was looking for something close to London and at the coast – and that’s quasi the definition of Brighton, it’s identity, the basis for it’s boom! And what’s cheeky German bastard was writing about it on May 2007? “Well, Brighton, which is some kind of London-on-sea, is dirty, scruffy, cheap looking.” But there are some rather nice areas in Hove, at the sea-front aren’t there? “Loud, noisy, hectic and with its narrow streets full of exhausts this secondary residence for Londoners is (and horrendously expensive as well) – the whole coast is some kind of amalgamated megalopolis, over which planes are descending, heading for London area. Not quite what I was expecting, for the last time I was there was twenty years ago. The only thing I would hate more than to go to Brighton would be not to do it!” Ouch! Well, well, well, how about that! Let’s have another look: “Who complains about miserable atmosphere in our country can make sure that it’s not in any way better here, quite the contrary, England has turned into a police state with secureness-paranoia, CCTV-cameras everywhere, security, there even was a guard in a rather small bookstore (though he surely bored himself to death). I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it in Germany! All these constant announcements not to leave any luggage unattended! Does one still know the friendly, unarmed London Bobby of former times, friendly giving advice to tourists, you now see them carrying heavy machine-guns at airports.” Oh dear! Would there be anything positive too? But it’s always very exciting to be in a foreign country and able to at least get around in that language. All those endless rows of houses, lined up like pearls on a string, it needs to get used to it! The old people are much leaner than ours, I get the impression, but especially the young women are often obese there, well, I found the food as bad as it’s reputation, anything just chips with something. The English are very odd, the coins for example! The one-pound coin is rather small, the twenty larger, the fifty still larger, and the two-p-coin the largest. Yet the smallest of all is the one-p-coin! Hilarious! Or this one time when I was at the DVLA-office for my driving-licence! I enter, all’s empty, no one waiting in front of the counters, I walk up to someone, he says I have to pull a number first. I do so, then there’s an amazingly loud tannoy-anouncement “number such and such to counter this and this”, walk up to him and say so this time it’s official – got him smirking! The official symbol of Brighton is the Pavillion, kind of, a somehow surrealistic-bizarre appearing structure from Thousand and One Nights, a building-become-absolutistic-delusion, yet something that gives you a certain kick to look at, somehow – indian take-away it’s named disrespectfully, in Brighton jargon, I’ve been told. Inofficially yet it’s the pier, I mean not the one who just stands there like a collapsed-back-upon-itself heap of scrap, for one is not allowed to tear it down, yet doesn’t have any money for restoration, but the one who is now some kind of constant-carnival. This is not too positive is it? Well, we shall see.

September 18, 2007

The time has finally come! I’m setting foot on English soil, as an immigrant! I’m bringing my four rabbits! I’m being literally turned upside down when searched for drugs at Newhaven custom! “Thank you for the warm welcome to this country!” are almost my first words as a new English resident thus. They simply don’t believe me, that I’m going to Brighton to become a cab-driver there, “it’s just not plausible”, they keep on saying and “we’ve never seen anything so weird as someone bringing four rabbits to this country”. (Well, fodder for the British bulldog, I would say now, a year later). Of course they check, the same as French custom did, if it’s legal anyway to bring four rabbits, someone does the accordant call, of course they are being told the same as I checked in the internet before, up to five are okay, when from Western Europe, six and more would have to be quarantined half a year. A good thing now, long afterwards, that I had had to mourn the death of two of my beloved little critters, two and four years ago, otherwise I would have been in serious trouble now. They even ask me Brighton roads so they could find some truth in what they think is just a cover-up for me being an evil drug-courier, not even shrinking back from abusing cute innocent little furry creatures for my sinister purposes. And why don’t I have an address to stay, not even a hotel reservation? Because I’m a scatter-brained slob, a chaotic artist who fled for the mess he left behind in Germany? Simply didn’t have the time, find it awfully exhausting to look for a room in England (which I did, oh yes) whilst still being in Germany anyway, just relied on my luck I will find something? “You won’t find anything with four rabbits, no one will take you, not in a hotel-room, nor will you be able to find a room in this country, not with four rabbits.” (Yeah, right fits nicely in their thesis I will then butcher the bunnies I have virtually stuffed out with coke, sell it and go back to Germany for more) It’s running late and my brother, who drove me in his car, had to be back at work on the next day, I somehow want to get this point through to them that they are actually holding me up! An hour later they let me go and “it’s just not plausible” is a running joke now between my brother and me. A sign?

There wasn’t actually a problem finding a hotel room, although I was about to say to my brother that he should drop me of under the nearest bridge, with my comfy mattress and my rabbit-cage. I spend the first days in Kingsway-hotel, at St. Aubyns, until I find something, as a Lodger in Worthing, which wasn’t easy for the semester had already started, sort of the worst time of the year to arrive in Brighton. My room there is under the roof and only reachable by a sort of chicken-ladder, (I will have to exchange a used TV against another, for it didn’t fit up the stairs) Use of kitchen, bath, garden included.

(I will not translate all the drama and really bad things that had happened in all the time between, for time reasons, instead I will transform this directly into the novel I will later write about this in English language.)

FlopsyMopsyPeterlittle Cottontail

My four little critters – Flopsy, Mopsy, Peter and Cottontail

April 2007

“Then don’t come here, mate!”, barks a guard at Brighton College at me, for I’ve answered his question, “can I help you?” with No. I’ve just cycled around a bit there and already I’m starting World-War-Three! I step up to him and blaze fiercely at him. “Don’t treat me like this!” and told him I’m doing taxi-knowledge and when I will eventually have passengers, who’d like to come here, or to pick up here, I will say I don’t know Brighton College.

21.05 – 17.08. 2008

Thursday, 24. Mai 2007

– my first day as a Brighton cabbie

My first passenger is a cat. Obviously she’s trained on cabs, as soon as she sees me, she jumps into the open window and wants to be cuddled. Yet as she’s not able to pay, I throw her out again. (Joking, it’s just that I’m allergic to cats – they sense that, that’s why they love me, cruel things) No, I’m joking again, my first passenger actually is Gem and his little daughter, but he does this only because he knows I will mention my first passenger in my books, so I won’t (and also because he didn’t pay). Then right away a “no job”, for the battery is low on my car the screen crashes. I have to call the office by phone, by that time the passenger is gone.

I’ve spent a lot of thought on my first real paying customer, if I should dedicate my first book, written in England, but the fare is quite unspectacular, she’s late and anything is just businesslike. I tell my second one about it and he replies: “Oh, I’m not your first time”, he’s giving off a rather gay impression, “but they say it always gets better with the second time..!”

My first week

Very soon the first boozer, he is too drunk to tell me where to go properly, short-changes me, gives me instead of 5.60£ only 5 and says, “you should be thankful, I was teaching you the way” and, to that I’d been a cab-driver before in Germany, “but not in this fucking country!” No, I reply obediently, “not in this “fucking” country”.

“Woman in labour, would someone please..”, is on the display and I of all, first week, don’t know nothing, don’t know how, at the end of the first long day, do the dreaded among all cab-drivers “bite-umbilical-cord-“congrats-you-have-a-boy”-mother-happily-smiles-cab-full-of-amniotic-liquor”-tour.

June 2007

The ads at the rear of the dreadful buses are kind of funny, say, i.e., “you must be “parking mad” to drive a car in this city”. All fine and dandy, but how about: “I take the bus because it’s so bloody annoying to get stuck behind one!”

I get someone who had been a cabbie in San Francisco before (Brighton: England’s San Fran!) We pass a push-bike on Kingsway, have to slow down for that, I roll down a window and shout: “there’s a bloody bike path!” “Oh, you pick up on the local habits pretty fast!” he says.

One of many businesswomen, working in London, to the train station. On the way there’s a BMW parked in such a stupid manner that it’s tough to pass. The two guys in it have their window rolled down and I ask, very timidly: “Why do you block the road like this?” “Wankers”, she hisses from behind. London style!

“Humps”! Cost a fortune, ruin nerves, spines and spoilers, people brake abruptly before them and accelerate noisily after. I keep on telling my passengers about how these things are handled in Germany, mobile speed-camera-units ensure everybody drives slow, nice and steady. “Sleeping policemen, they’re called”, someone tells me. “Well, they sure wake me up!”, I reply.

“We should learn from the Germans”, my passenger admits, “we’re an arrogant race, always have been. We listen to no one.” Would I be allowed to say such a thing?

“Germany, where the roads are dead flat and spotlessly clean”, someone tells me.

I should make a sign and keep it in the car: “driver speaks German – and that’s pretty much it”, or “keep left, German klutz.”

“I always get stressed, when I travel”, a Lady tells me excitedly, “I’ll have a coffee now, not to be stressed”. “You’re stressing me”, I reply, yet, as there was still some time before her bus left, we drive to Starbucks on St. James’s Street and she bought me one. I mention my Blog and said: “you’ll be in my Blog as “nice lady that bought me coffee”. In the meantime I buy a snack in one of the shops there and see a sign: “sarcasm is just another service we offer”. Other good signs: “Life’s a bitch and so am I”, A dog is for life – unlike men” “Comments on my driving? Dial 0800-eat-shit!”

I learn that Brighton and Freiburg, the town I’m from in Germany, have a lot in common, Brighton is “happiest place in the country” and so is actually Freiburg, in Germany.

I pick up someone at the Royal Sussex Hospital, he wants to go to the Brighton General Hospital, he appears to me as if he’s… “Are you a doctor?”, I ask, as we see an old Lady tripping, and falling to the floor, when she alights from a bus, “you’ll never run out of patients!” He could do nothing about it, the paramedics would be better equipped for such things.

It’s hard enough to find house numbers in Germany and generally England is not really the country of compelling logic. House numbers are either odd or even on the same side of the road, they run up, they run down – if you’re lucky, that is, and there is a number visible from somewhere. Then there are all these courts, just blocks of flats, but they have numbers of their own, and it’s all one big mess. Some crescents you have to approach from the left, as you would think is appropriate, yet some from the right!

The company I work for, Hove Streamline, was (that is, all Hove-based cab-companies were), not allowed to wait and pick up people at Brighton ranks, before the merge of Brighton & Hove. To this very day there remains a certain imbalance business-wise, main business and most of the cars, is or are still in Hove. Whoever is waiting in Brighton has sometimes to wait longer or especially drive longer ways for a fare. Most critical are the outside areas with free parking, so everybody has a car, I make the corresponding experience rather soon. Thank God one wants to merge soon.

How to rank properly at Brighton station

I familiarise myself with the various pull-up-regulations on ranks in this town. There are some you have to queue in rows of two or even three, at the station, and have to memorise the one who is before oneself in the queue. Because Brighton is so hilly there are ranks you can pull up downhill. Did the city-fathers have made there minds up about that, then? Nope, there some you have to pull up uphill! At it’s finest! In general you can get sea-sick from all these hills and humps and bad roads, driving a cab in Brighton is like riding a horse! When I was still doing knowledge I made these mock route-tests, 21/2 hours non-stop driving in Brighton & Hove, I actually came home sea-sick!

“You better get a good hold of your coffee”, I say to my passenger who is holding a coffee-cup in his hands (which he rather shouldn’t), when we go up Gloucester Street, “it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!” Straight away he spills it “don’t worry, it’s over me.” “I told you!”

London-cabs spoil habits, people get in in the back, it’s all more businesslike then in Germany, less personal, people are not that used to familiarise with the driver, to have a chat with him, there’s fewer tip. But if you talk to someone people can be quite chatty.

Brighton is amazingly international, I would estimate from my customers alone, that one third are foreigners, from all over the world. I drive an Australian who says in Australia people always sit in the front.

You’d be safe in Whitehawk throughout the day, the types won’t come out of their houses before dark.

A Scot tells me they have about 30% English pound-notes in circulation, whereas in England not everybody would accept Scottish notes. Big brother, small brother, to express it mathematically, Scotland relates itself to England, as England to America.

Eight months in England now and I’ve finally realised one doesn’t speak German here, but a weird language with strange lilting- and guttural sounds and vowels which having being laid violent hands on. Furthermore, one drives on the left side, no one tells me that. Oh dear! You have to find out everything by yourself, haven’t you!

I see an estate-car where the rear-window is missing and it’s been replaced in good old English-style fashion, the English solution – improvised and with lots of plastic. They took brown wrapping paper with red duck-tape, reinforced cross-wise in two diagonals, the whole thing looks like a British flag. The car moves out of my field of view, a rear windscreen wiper flaps tiredly across it.

MR LION, the licence plate says pompously. In Germany, the first two or three letters always tell in which town the car is licensed, thus makes it more difficult to refer to something with. Except, maybe, when a car has “banged” another one and it was from Mannheim (MA) and the car it has hit from Freiburg (FR). (So maybe there has been an accident one time with a car MA-NN (“m-an”), that hit a car FR-AU (“wo-man”)?) Someone tells me later he owns a few restaurants in Brighton, almost everybody knows him and he lets himself chauffeur all over town, for he doesn’t have a licence anymore.

I found this letter on the Argus and decided to copy it, it speaks for itself in many ways – why on earth did Brighton and Hove merge? They don’t seem to fit, do they? But on the other hand, as a Brighton & Hove cab-driver, you experience every day how those two towns are just one big conglomerate, they are “hopelessly” entwined and it’s just every-day’s-cabbie-experience, that you go from one to another all the time (of course not though just when you are just waiting for it) and it’s about high time Brighton and Hove Streamline consummate the merging the towns had done many years before, my opinion. Here’s the letter: It is time for Hove to divorce Brighton! I would like to start a campaign to bring about the demise of the union of Brighton and Hove and reinstate the former borough councils. I have been living in Hove for nearly a year now and have developed an interest in the development and history of this lovely town. I have loved living here and have really found the place where I want to be based and live for the long term. However, one thing has been bugging me that I really need to get off my chest. I simply cannot fathom why Hove ever merged with its alien neighbour Brighton to form a quasi city called Brighton and Hove. Whose bright idea was that? It’s like merging Liverpool with Manchester, or Bristol with Bath, or Portsmouth with Southampton. Hove is – or from what I can see, was – a lovely, quiet, residential town with a good council that looked after the needs and interests of Hove. Now we have one council that looks after the needs of both places. It’s madness. I have asked many Hove residents what they think and everyone says the same thing: Hove died when the merger took place. Just look at the rusty, flaking promenade railings in Brighton, the dirty streets, the horrible, scruffy town centre, the dreadful, chavvy nightlife. Why on earth would you want to merge that with Hove? This is not a snobbish attitude. I am not an old fuddy-duddy. I am an outgoing, sociable, young, modern guy who likes a pint down the pub, a good horror film and a night out clubbing. It’s just that I get a nosebleed every time I go past the Peace Statue or across Boundary Passage in Western Road. Why can’t we have decisions made for Hove by a Hove council, and decisions made for Brighton by a Brighton council? As of next month, I will not be paying my council tax to Brighton and Hove City Council as I do not recognise this entity any longer. I will be sending my council tax cheque to Hove Borough Council and mailing it to Hove Town Hall. I would encourage everyone who feels passionate about this to do the same. righton, I want a divorce.

July 2007

I cycle quite often to work, in the morning, ten miles along the coast. Each morning waste-bags are torn open by gulls or foxes and the garbage lies around. In Brighton too, each morning the same. Today it’s very, very hot and I’ve forgotten to bring my shorts, I decided to go back bare-chested and in my pants, after I’ve seen people walking around like that. There is no wind, it stinks to high heaven of barbecue, everywhere. The next day I’m smarter, I bring a pair of shorts, after work I go to the little park nearby, eat something and am about to change my trousers, won’t take long and no one’s around. There comes along four or five little boys, “we’re playing here” and right away, they start to play, around me sitting on the bench, not minding me or taking any notice of me. Great! Why don’t they pick another bench, anywhere else but no here where I’m sitting and am about to change my trousers! Probably they can’t chase away anybody there, that’s why. “Okay”, I say, “I was just about to go, just have to change my trousers and off am I.” The boys still don’t mind me, keep on playing, I take off one pair of trousers and put on the other one. Makes them act kind of funny all of a sudden, makes them shy away from me! One asks: “Why do you change your trousers in front of us!” Funny question I think, what else is there for me to do if you don’t leave me alone? “I just have to change my trousers and them I’m on my way.” “You’re a pedophile!”, the spokesman says all of a sudden. What? I explain to them that I’m about having to cycle for an hour and I haven’t actually invited them to gather around me, have I, yet it doesn’t help, the situation is getting more and more absurd, it doesn’t help either me saying I don’t give a rat’s ass about them, all I want is to tuck my shopping, swing me on my bike, they can play here or imagine paedophiles or what have they (shouldn’t watch that much private TV), out falls the cucumber which I’ve bought and and which I’ve wanted to have a bite on tonight. “Yeah, look what he’s got this cucumber for”, one of the brats then says with a leer on his face. “Oh fuck off!” I couldn’t find anything more stupid to say, flabbergasted, just to hear him say: “Yeah, fuck, that’s what you would like to do!” Dear God, am I to blame for those little brats’ dirty fantasy?

Two old ladies ask me if I would have a working permit when I say that I’m from Germany, just as if I would have been freshly released from a POW-camp and have decided to stay in England, because all of my relatives had been killed in the war anyway. Time just stops for the old people, some of them think 20 pence would be a good tip, just because it was so in their youth, sixty years ago. 10£ is a good tip, if you want to know.

I have to unlock a door from outside for someone who is trapped inside, because his partner had locked him in the flat. She gives me the keys, I drive there, ring and he tells me what key I have to pick from the bunch. You are in my books, I tell him, he’s happy about that.

So many people would come to Brighton to celebrate their stag and hen night, “yeah, Brighton is so crazy, let’s make it even more so”, that’s all I can say to that.

“I just got out of prison”, I tell my passengers on this day and it was like this: I got a job: “Eye-clinic, prisoner & two officers, Lewes prison.” Blimey! Right away I imagined two heavily-armed prison wardens with a cuffed, dangerous and sinister looking inmate, but in the end it was just one friendly and humorous officer with a young chap having a black eye, sitting in a corner and having a nice chat, quite harmless, it all. So, off we were on our way to Lewes, whilst the two had a decent conversation, and arrived at the prison gate. Right, I thought, not too bad a fare, tick off and carry on. There I should honk, where after the gate would open and swallow the prisoner – and me! Yikes, hang on a sec! The nice officer then alighted and let me, with the prisoner, uncuffed, sitting behind me alone! Yikes, again. Best to start a chat with the lag. “Welcome to my world!” says he, tells me he’s allowed to go home for the weekend every six weeks and is about to be released soon anyway, has done a few years though already. We enter the lock where I was being told to cut the engine and get out. I was asked if I’d have a mobile, yes, and if would be so kind as to leave it here, erm… what? I was supposed to lock it in, alright, I do. Then I was frisked! Now, the lock opened and I thus drove with the prisoner in my car and the officer walking ahead of me to the first door, which he unlocked, indicating to me I should drive through and wait for him, he would lock it behind me! This little game now took place three times! Until we’ve finally reached the inner ward, near to his cell. The friendly, good tempered officer then signified me to wait a few minutes. There he reaches through my window and pulls off the car-keys! “Just in case, so that no one can hijack you.” I wait for five minutes, then the whole affair can begin backwards, same old game, drive to the door, wait until he’s done with unlocking, drive through, wait until he’s done with locking. At the end he winked at me, let’s have a look if we can get you outta here again! Finally the last door opened and releases me back into freedom again. And for just this moment… yes, just for this moment, all troubles and worries that come along with that are forgotten. Freedom, at last, freedom!

July 11

The Argus: Teenager carjacks cabbie, 72 A teenager carjacked a taxi driver before crashing into a shop during a police chase. The youth attacked the cabbie, wrestled the 72-year-old from his vehicle and drove off. But his journey came to an end when he smashed into a post, sent it flying through the front window of a shop, and fled into the sea.

July 22

The Argus: Cab strike after driver’s arrest. Angry taxi drivers have criticised police after two cabbies were arrested in a row over parking. Brighton city centre was brought to a standstill on Friday night when scores of angry taxi drivers pulled up at busy ranks and got out of their cars in a two-hour protest at the arrests. Scores of agitated revellers were left with no way of getting home as drivers refused to take passengers. The walkout was sparked when two cabbies were arrested by British transport police officers outside Brighton station at about 11pm. They had been queuing at a drop-off point in Queens Road to get on to the station rank when they were told to move from the double yellow lines. One of the drivers, Mick Little, 54, said he was dragged out of his car by the officer and marched into the station for questioning. He said, “the rank was packed as usual so we were queuing to get in when the officer came over and started telling us to turn around. In that time a space had appeared so I asked why I couldn’t just drive into it. He said if I didn’t turn around he would arrest me. It was so over the top it was just absurd. He dragged me out of the car and frogmarched me into the station. I was questioned for an hour and then given a £30 fine for causing an obstruction. It was only when I came out that I realised everyone had gone on strike on support.” Another cabbie who saw the incident and began arguing with the officer was handcuffed and also taken into the station. Other drivers saw what was happening and word of the strike spread on radios and mobile phones. Both the city’s main ranks at the station and on east street were blocked by stationary cabs. The stand-off lasted almost two hours before Sussex police officers persuaded the taxi drivers to go back to work amid fears of escalating violence on the streets from drinkers unable to get home. Taxi drivers said too many licences had been issued. There are 17 parking spaces at the station to cater for 400 taxis…

One can feel oneself quite as a foreigner here, at times. This way one can feel rather neighbourly with other foreigners, especially with French and Swiss people, as Freiburg lies just in this triangle between the three countries. All foreigners are slagging the English as soon as they realise I’m none. A French woman lives here for ten years now, is married to an American who doesn’t speak French, so they’ve agreed on England, which is not too far away from France. She inhales, deeply, abandons all restraints, doesn’t stop anymore, the fare is quite long. “We don’t hate the Germans, that is completely bollocks”, a woman told me once, “we hate the French!” Seems, the feeling is mutual.

A black youngster cruises around on a souped-up scooter, he makes gigantic noise. Respect! For that’s what he wants. He doesn’t have education or vocational training but “get rich or die trying”, you don’t need this, all you need is some guts, man, and you can do without this shit. He then passes the rank Paston Place at the Royal Sussex… where I casually show him the finger. Thinking first he won’t take any notice anyway. What can you do, those guys get on your nerves all day long and the police won’t bother as long as they don’t steal from the rich or a pretty girl talks herself into believing some obscure threats and looks grief-stricken about, “white women in trouble” (scary movie) and along comes the units, as fast as lightning. There he comes at my window, yet! “You! (Yo, man) I want you to apologise, or I’m gonna bust your fucking face, you fucking cabbie.” Whoa. Easy, man. I point out I wouldn’t do a thing, he’s souped up his scooter and I could report him about this. “As if I would care”, he shouts, completely out of himself, he wants respect and I have to apologise, he’s waving his fist about. I get out of the cab, that way involving the colleagues a bit more, it helps, he begins with draw-back screaming-about and hits the road, eventually, after he almost hit me and my car with his scooter. I ask the colleagues why they haven’t approached sooner. Yeah, they had an eye on that, they would’ve come if needed, nothing has happened, has there? Yellow, you were! And that’s when you can read or hear each week about violent acts against cabbies and everyone is screaming for free CCTV-cams in cabs. What good would it do if one could see on CCTV how you get smacked in the teeth?

My first Heathrow-fare! A pick-up, the next day, the air-craft from Saudi-Arabia. Little Jochen from a small cosy town in cosy Germany, at the world’s third busiest airport. So many planes are here to be seen! And so many people from so many countries, for it handles more international passenger traffic than any other airport in the world. Indians in their robes, Arabs in their robes, Africans in their robes, Jews in caftans with hats and hair-locks, little, delicate Asians – yes even white people are here to be seen! These are really strange people with pale and pallid skin, just like maggots! “Are you my passenger”, little Jochen asks the nearest Arabic looking person that crosses his way and looks at him true-hearted. Yet he just shakes his head and little Jochen, who wants to be quite big one day though, the most famous cab-driver of the world, joins a queue of people all holding up signs with all sorts of funny stuff on it. Little Jochen too holds up his sign, which says EF. Only he holds it the wrong way, so that a friendly woman from EF has to turn it for him, later, when he has waited for quite a while now and no one has come! Yet the friendly lady has taken away his passenger as he later is being told and he has waited all that time all in vain! There, little Jochen is very sad and walks back to his cab, yet he is able to bill the fare and that makes him a little more cheerful yet. However, he can’t find his cab now! The little white Brighton-cab with the aquamarine bonnet! It’s no longer there! It’s gone! “Have you seen my cab?” little Jochen asks the nearest uniformed person, “it was right there, a minute ago!” Yet the man looks quite funny. “The police was there”, he says, “they’ve nicked it!” That’s when little Jochen realises this bad man looks so funny because it was him who has called the police. So the bad English have towed away his taxi! How can they be so mean? At least they have not destroyed it, like you can always hear it in the tannoy-announcements “please don’t leave any little Brighton-taxis unattended! All unattended little Brighton-taxis will be removed and immediately destroyed! So little Jochen sadly takes a cab. To his cab. At the pound. And drives back, all alone, to Brighton. Well, stop, not all alone, quite. For he takes along a juicy bill. 155£! On his way back it rains cats and dogs, sight is poor and signs are too, so he overlooks two tiny, little ones, saying “Gatwick/Brighton” and he gets stranded in the middle of nowhere. He enters a café and asks the waitress where he would be now, actually, all he knows is he’s no longer in Germany, but that’s about it.

“I always talk in the morning”, rattles one on me, “I’m late” (Here you go, join the club, I don’t think there’s anyone who isn’t late at this time, especially not in Brighton. The town awakes slowly, she’s on London time.) “My husband kept on asking when will you leave.”

“He probably wanted to get rid of you”, I say, grinning. “There are two things with women, they always talk and they are always late.” I grin even more. “Most of the time both of it comes together.”

I listen to BBC, someone tells something about his drinking habits: “it goes round and round ’till I vomit.” “British culture at it’s best”, the BBC-2-chap exercised himself in sarcasm. He’s quite good at it, already, I think.

A man has tripped over his cat and broken two ribs, because of it. He gives me a book, as a gift. No, he didn’t write it himself.

Nice old Ladies say “darling” or “sweetheart”, or “love” at least, a lot, enjoy to sit up front, too. If only the young businesswomen would do that.

A nice BMW-sports-convertible drives around, in it policemen in uniform. Sorry? “Car seized from local drug dealer”, is imprinted on the car, in large letters. Drugs do seem to be a huge problem in Brighton, the dealers seem to be quite cheeky, I’ve never seen anything like it in Germany that they hang shoes up on some telegraph cables to demonstrate that this is their territory.

An 82-year old Lady, who had lost six siblings in the war, gives me a 4£-tip. She was married and divorced three times, “it’s been worse the fighting the Germans!”

When I’m helpful with elderly, I enjoy to say “here’s a little war reparation”, from time to time.

A young Lady flirts with me, we talk about tong breakers, I’d like to know one with “th”, but only the “pheasant plucker” comes to her mind, “I like it when little children say it… they always get it wrong.” “So, you like to give me you number? We could, erm, pluck a pheasant, or something?” I know, I should have said that, but I’m too timid for that.

“Bloody road-works” – those two words always come hand in hand. I sometimes guess, they only close the holes they dug up, because they need the cones for the new ones. “They have a budget for it, if they don’t spend it, it get’s shortened next year”, someone tells me, he lives at St James’s Street, which they “narrowed, widened and narrowed again”.

“Nothing ever works in this country”, another one tells me.

A Lady tells me about their German friends, her husband had been in the marine and the German in the “U-Bootflotte”. “Back then they were sinking each other, now they are drinking together.”

The loo Goldstone Villas is hopelessly perv-infested, I simply call it the “wankers-toilette”. Later there’s a sign mentioning “complaints about unlawful sexual activities” and “un-uniformed officers are present”, to ask unpleasant questions to those who spent too much time when peeing.

“Brighton has always been a magnet for nutters”, tells me someone.

“Can we stop at a cash point on our way”, one of the most frequently heard sentences in a cab, let it be in England, or in it’s German equivalent, in Germany.

“I’m running late”, (another “most frequent sentence”) one of many hurried persons in the morning tells me. First they call the cab late, then they let you wait. “Well, I was there in time”, I retorted, slightly shirty. “What do you make the time?”, he asked, slightly aggressive already. “What. What do mean, what do I make the time, I don’t make the time!” What on Earth does he mean by that, funny Englishman? God does it or time itself in some funny reziprokatevely bend cosmic-causality thingy, goodness, but not me! He get’s even more aggressive and we are on the verge of an argument before he realises I’m a foreigner and simply haven’t heard this expression ever before. Where do I come from and what do I do here? I write about my experiences. “So you can write about how you just met a grumpy Englishman.” It might very well happen I meet grumpy Englishmen, every once in a while.

I sometimes tell people I’m Hitler’s last, secret stand. It is my job to spoil, through jabbering Germanic gibberish and driving completely out of it, their day and thus bring down, slowly but inevitably, British economy. Credit crunch? It’s all my doing.

Monday, 18.08.08

Adelaide Crescent

In the morning, after five minutes of laborious listening, whilst I’m digging myself doggedly through traffic, I get a long roader, to Bethnal Green. I know that area, don’t I, I’m thinking, that’s where I lived at for two months when I was in London, ’84, that’s what it is? I go to the office, pick up the roader-slip, yes, it is! Super, right away I go home to have a closer look on the map. Off Becks Road, to where I’m supposed to go, it’s just round the corner to Claredale Street, where I lived in that student house, long time ago. I’m quite cheerful, of course I will go there afterwards and have a look, at 17.30 hours I’m supposed to pick up the people, 129£ fixed price, great! It’s 16.30. I’m Montpelier and get a Gatwick-take-up, usually quite welcome, take people up, take back home 43£, without to much hassle. Regretful I decline, it wouldn’t fit, time-wise. 17.30. I have just dropped off someone across where I live and could have finished or accepted another job, but “London is calling”. So I drive another three k’s to Adelaide Crescent and position myself at the house number given to me, wait for a quarter of an hour. Just as I realise, after I’ve been there a sure twenty times, I’ve just today, where it really counts, mixed up Adelaide Crescent with Palmeira Square! Super! “I’m worried, if you’re not able to find Adelaide Crescent, how would you be able to find Bethnal Green?” our friendly, yet over-worked dispatcher says. But I’ve looked it up on the map! But I’ve lived there! As usual, when I’m tired it’s not that easy to bring the point across in English and on the radio, (whilst driving hectically back a one-way-street), I just stammer about, helplessly. I would have five minutes, to find the address, he says sternly, then he would send someone else there. One minute later I’m there, talking to the people. If I would have Sat Nav, he asks me in the mean-time. No, I don’t have Sat Nav. “They don’t want you any more, I’m afraid.” I look at the people, they appear as cold as ice. Fog is gathering, I resign. I don’t want them either, I’m afraid. “I don’t really care!” I say, sullenly. I finish and have a little jump in the sea. There are so many things in life which are more important. I can forgive myself errors and weaknesses, I don’t know how many times I’ve done crap in my life but it has always carried on. At least I know where “my friend”, the Tesco-pick-up-point is, I’m dumb but not stupid. If I go there ten times I make a 50£. In about 50 years I will have paid back my debts.

Palmeira Square

Friday, 22.8.08

The “White Van Man”, “they have a certain reputation and they live up to it”, she says. “It’s a pick-up-point, not a short-park-point”, I affirm firmly. Two white vans obstruct the lay-by at Tesco’s, while at the same time two taxis are picking up there, one of them is me. One white-van-man comes along, looking aggressively. I had a look in the paper today and found out that “Brighton and Blackpool are the most rowdy places in the country, with London in the third place!” Do I say something to him? I think he’s a bit more muscular then me. Almost as muscular as I was ten years ago.

Thursday, 28.8.08

We see an “ambulance on bike”, a push-bike with a paramedic on it. “Have you seen what I just have seen?”, I’m asking my passenger and start laughing tears. “Yep, I’ll be there in 45 minutes”, he jokes.

“Slow moving vehicle”, that’s what’s on the back of the garbage trucks, ever so nice and fitting. It means, in the narrow streets of Brighton, that it can be quite a while, if you’re stuck behind one and you can watch them working. Not to fast, sometimes. “Slow moving workers” that’s what it should be!.

A coke-bottle sprays its content all over me when I open it and gets me soaking wet. “Just when you think it can’t get any worse”, I say to my next passenger and: “I will get you where you want to go perfectly quiet and calm and then… I will freak out!”

Friday, 29.8.08

“You just hit my Blog.” A girl tells me where to go: “It’s just close to the pawn-shop”. “Oh”, I reply, understanding porn-shop, dumb German, me, “I didn’t know there was a porn-shop”. (I’ve, England, just seen two of them in Brighton, one close to each other.) Then, I realise that a) there’s not actually a lot of difference in the way you pronounce pawn and porn, b) England, the latter is not actually the kind of thing people would chat about so casually, is it? I mean, especially not girls, I mean, not the ordinary kind of girl. It’s “the super-market I always go shopping”, not “the porn-shop I always go shopping”, isn’t it? (No sex please we’re British!) Of course, laid-back-and-knowing-the-facts-of-life-German I am, I point this out, straight away, (no taboos, right), and say I would have been surprised, if she has meant that. “Yes”, she says, she wouldn’t have mentioned it. “Yeah, England”, I said, laid-back-and-knowing-the-facts-of-life-German I am, “in Germany, there’s a porn-shop round every corner.” That’s, by God, not even half-true, but I sure made the point.

Saturday, 30.8.08

We see people from Peacehaven, protesting against the planned waste disposal site there. “Brighton, we don’t want your rubbish…” and “it’s Peacehaven, not Poohaven”. They’re obstructing us, honking their horns timidly, occasionally. “Oh, get on with it!” I say. “Yeah, make your point and leave!” my passenger ads, humorously.

Sunday, 31.8.08

“London is full of foreigners”, tells me one, who already had a few, “you will feel yourself at home.” Sure, it’s kind of cosy with other foreigners, you can ally against the British with them, who are, so one told me recently, the biggest racists in the world. “They hate the Blacks, they hate the Indians, they hate the Arabs…”, that’s what he told me, emphasizing the word hate each time. I decide to play the Germany-card, let’s see how they react, after all I’m not just any ordinary run-of-the-mill foreigner, I’m from Germany, a country to which the English have a special relationship. Two bloody wars, won cumbrously, only with the aid of America, the “Wirtschaftswunder”, German perfectionism, soccer, great cars, a country where anything actually works, a mixture of respect, old hostility and new friendship, admiration, envy, yet still a little bit of condescension. Something special, anyhow. “Where do you think I’m from?” I say, in a challenging tone. “Oh, you’re a serb…”, they pause to think, …or whatever…” there’s contempt in their voice, any of these countries wherein you just can’t stand to live, so you come to England and take the people’s jobs away – I tell them. “Oh!” The contempt has passed, they’re searching for words, then, needless to say: “You’re a Kraut!” “Yes”, I reply proudly, as if this would be some kind of honourable title, that’s at least what I make out of it, ad hoc, “I’m a Kraut.” And ad that there’s exactly two of us here, working as cab-drivers in Brighton, no more. “Yeah”, they say and laugh, “there would be more of you, if we wouldn’t have won the war!”

I drive the old gramps again, who likes to pull the joke about the cardinal points, which he knows about so well, for he was in the marine. “There’s fucking East- and there’s fucking West-Crescent.” Where would I be from, he asks, I tell him. He looks at me for two seconds, utterly perplex. “You’re a fucking Kraut!” He then says, it was only yesterday he had shot at them and today they drive him home after shopping, make themselves at home in the country, if that just doesn’t take the biscuit! “Sorry about the fucking war”, I say, grinning. “Don’t start another one”, he replies, and shakes my hand for good-bye.

Friday, 26.9.08

I’ve been living now since July in Portslade in the house of a colleague, Larry, with whom I had a chat at the rank and found out that way that he was looking for a lodger, and I’m rather content except for the usual utterly intolerable and insufferable conditions, for the first time since I’ve come to England. The chap that lives next door to me is an ambitious sportsman and has the rather nerve-wrecking habit of frying tons of meat and fish for his protein-diet, so that it constantly stinks to high heaven after that, worth to mention is also his morningly rope-skipping in front of my window.

My situation here – I’m completely unknown, whereas I was quite known all over the place in Freiburg, lots of passengers had heard of me and most of the colleagues. I had my books in book-stores, libraries, they were mentioned quite frequently in the local media. Nobody knows me here, but maybe it’s for the best I will be just sausaging around a little for the next time until I’m ready for a little fame and glory. I mean, I could easily convince people that it’s worth reading my books, for I was witty and charming and sparkling with humour – in Germany, in my mother-tongue, whereas now I’m just a stammering idiot who writes in a dreadful style and with lots of mistakes! Yet I’m much better with the job now, when I think back with dread at my first week, the one time, when I got radio job and pick-up at the rank at the same time, I didn’t know where to go or how to get rid of the job or the man, I was just muttering about, it’s all too much, it’s all too much… my passenger just got out without any comment, then the office called me I had accepted a job and picked up at the time, if that is true? These squealers don’t even take the trouble to look hundred meters behind! Also with dread I think back at my first car ride – in this country, with right-hand-steering and left-hand-shifting, driving on the other side of the road that I was used to, on the right, there was missing something and on the left, there was some funny annex, you’d have to putter around all over the countryside and which forced you to keep much, much distance to the left and then, all of a sudden, the brain, this hugantic and ginourmous swabber-jelly-computer, does click! And all decade-long experience is mirrored miraculously to the other side! Only reversing a long stretch is still awkward, for the back has to twist to the other side it is used to.

English women are rather peculiar indeed, some of them are just to be taken with a pinch of salt. Maybe one has to look at it in a historic context, that strong, charismatic women had played a bigger part in England than in Germany, if you look on all these Queens, Margret Thatcher, (long before Angela Merkel, who is much more feminine anyway) and such. Yet some women still claim a bonus for being female as much as they can or whenever they like, so being strong gives them advantages, yet sometimes being weak as well, just as they please, whereas men still are not allowed to show any weakness (if they haven’t learned to coquette with it as much as I do, hehehe) and being trained on relieving women from work.

English women

19.9.08

I have sent to Taxi Freiburg, my old company in Freiburg, a email, I don’t know if they will answer me, there has been a lot of sensitivities and Lembke just can’t keep his mouth shut.

“The Zen art of driving in Brighton” staring into space and just driving somehow with the sixth sense, in such a way that there’s to left and right only a hands-breadth between the mirrors of parked cars.

Drive a nice old English gentleman, he is giving himself quite jovial and chatty. We come across two sweet little school-girls and right away there is lots of eye-twinkling stuff. I mention there are no school-uniforms in Germany. “It adds to them”, he says, just as it is with nurses and stewardesses, the uniform adds to it an own special kick. He had been introduced to love by a German woman who was a lot older than him. “Cunningulus – and I thought that was an island!”

29.9.08

Each time I go to Tesco-pick-up-point I make an average 4 quids, and have to carry a lot of plastic-bags for that. I guess, I’m doing something wrong. Now, here’s how you do it and you don’t even have to fuss around with a lot of bags!

Gunmen in £60,000 Hove Tesco robbery Monday 29th September 2008. Shocked shoppers watched in horror as gunmen stole £60,000 from a supermarket, warning security guards: “We’ll blow your brains out.” Two masked robbers leapt from behind a hedge and held a gun against the head of a security worker outside Tesco in Church Road, Hove, on Saturday. They demanded that the man, a driver for money moving firm Group 4 Securicor, handed over bags containing a large sum of money which had just been brought out of the supermarket. The pair ran off through a block of flats to a car parked in Connaught Road and sped away. Sussex Police said the violent attack had happened very quickly and the men had made their getaway before officers reached the scene. The raid happened at 11.40am, one of the busiest times of the week for the supermarket, and was seen by dozens of shoppers. Eye-witnesses said the G4S driver had come out of the store carrying the cash and put it on the turntable system on his van for a colleague inside to collect and securely store. As he did the gunmen sprung from their hiding place, wearing masks to cover part of their faces. One onlooker said: “The robbers put a gun to the guard’s head and banged on the side of the van and said: “If you don’t turn the money back around we’re going to blow your colleague’s brains out”.” The guards handed over the cash and the men made their escape. Sources said between £60,000 and £80,000 in cash was being collected from the store. Sussex Police said a red hatchback VW Golf getaway car was spotted driving at speed out of Connaught Road and was discovered abandonned in Mortimer Road, in Poet’s Corner, Hove, 20 minutes later. Both gunmen were male and described as in their 20s or 30s and between 5’8″ and 6’0″ tall. Police said one was black or dark skinned and the other was white or Arabic in appearance. One wore a flourescent jacket and the other wore dark clothes and a baseball cap… Comments to that…watch out… prices will go up to compensate there loss…. …Makes a change from Tesco’s robbing us!… …sounds like a good time to start zero tolerance on drug dependent nobs of brighton and hove or the possees from south east london and croydon. lets hope they are caught as hove is becoming a slum under celia barlow mp… …Would have been amusing if they’d been stuck at the traffic lights in Sackville Road in the getaway car – I seem to spend hours sitting there….

Never take a man’s drink away! street drinker was beaten with police batons, pepper-sprayed and shot with a Taser stun gun after he refused to hand over his alcohol. A police officer suffered a broken arm trying to restrain the man, 37, in New Road, Brighton, opposite the Theatre Royal, yesterday. Officers said the man turned violent when they tried to take his drink away. After a struggle, he was immobilised with a 50,000-volt shock. He was part of a small group drinking on a bench at about 10.45am when he was approached by a police officer. He reportedly became violent after police asked him to hand over his drink. Onlookers said they heard sudden shouting in the street before police dragged a man across the floor. One member of staff at a nearby shop said she saw the officer who was injured hitting the man on the shins with a baton. She said: “The man was being aggressive and the police were being quite aggressive towards him.”

I guess I’m not the only who wants to be rich and famous and surrounded by flocks of women… Talent show hopefuls turned out in force to emulate their TV heroes. Forty competitors were chosen from about 400 entrants to strut their stuff on Saturday in the hope of winning national fame. They were taking part in Idol 2008, a nationwide contest to win recording deals and touring opportunities. After auditions on August 16, sets of regional finalists were whittled down from a field of about 5,000 people. The Sussex event took place at Hove Centre at Hove Town Hall in front of crowds of up to 400. Organiser Chris Grayston said: “The standard was very high. There were some very talented people.” …Oh dear. More fame hungry, talentless wannabes whoring themselves to an already ridiculously oversubscribed industry…  Yeah, stop that nonsense, girls, it will get you nowhere, start cheering for me!

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About Jochen Lembke

Europe's cab-driving writer
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