Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Hi there, apologies for not writing before, but life and work has made its demands, and I've been up to the ears in trying to sort out both. I have been told that certain aspects of my writing life would be very interesting to read, so this blog will be a sort of diary of the pitfalls, the adventures, inspiration and funny events in the life of an author. I hope they amuse and entertain you - if they don't - let me know!
I live in England, in a tiny village that is nestled in the South Downs of Sussex. It is peaceful here most of the time and the perfect environment for an author to settle down to work with a pastoral scene beyond the window. But writers do have to leave their desks occasionally, otherwise the broad beam we are all famous for will only get wider! I'm lucky, for I escape my office and Sussex and shoot off to Australia most years to do my research, visit the family, show my husband how wonderful my homeland is, and get inspiration for the next book.
My husband doesn't always come with me, so I've taken my daughter, and a girlfriend. It is the holiday spent with my girlfriend that I will tell you about first - as I think you might enjoy our strange and rather frightening experience with a Russian cab driver in Sydney.
The driver is Russian. His English is appalling and as he's only been in Australia for a matter of weeks, has no idea of how to get to our destination.
He sits in the cab as my girlfriend and I struggle to get her large suitcase in the boot. I stick mine on the back seat and clamber in beside the Russian. The conversation turns out to be similar to one I'd had a few days before with Syrian cab driver - but this time I'm prepared.
I talk slowly and clearly and give him the name of the industrial estate where my car is waiting to be collected. I even have a rough map of the area with the Transport Company clearly marked with a big black X.
I needed have bothered.
We set off at a great pace, going in the wrong direction. Screeching to a halt at the traffic lights he peruses his own map of Sydney, realises what he's done, and when the lights change, crosses three lanes of traffic so he can do an illegal U-turn and go back the way we came.
We pass our hotel and head through the early morning traffic towards the airport.
Now, I have a bad sense of direction - rather like this Russian - but I could have sworn we should have turned left back there. But I keep my thoughts to myself. Surely he can't be that wrong?
He is. We've done another U-turn, have passed the hotel for the second time, and are now heading away from the airport and racing through suburbia.
'I know where is,' he says, rolling his r's and eyes. 'I just forget one moment.'
'That's all very well,' I reply. 'But the meter's ticking and I'm going to have to pay you for getting me lost.' I check my map. 'Turn left here.'
'I drive this car,' he says, lifting both hands off the wheel to emphasise the point. 'You English, you know nothing.' He goes straight past the turning, drives for a mile, pulls up at the kerb and looks at his map.
Oh, God. This is the drive from hell. Now he's roaring off in the wrong direction again.
'Turn the bloody car around, go back to those last lights, then turn bloody right where you should have turned bloody left.' The Australian accent has returned and I'm losing patience.
He eyes me belligerently, turns the cab around and does as he's told.
'Now right,' I say, my finger firmly plastered to the spot on my map. If I'm wrong about this he'll have me sent to some gulag - he looks mean enough.
He obeys, obviously realising you don't mess with a woman who's been, literally, driven around the bend.
Straight down her to the roundabout and then take the third exit.' I'm getting quite excited at the thought of seeing my car again. It will be a relief not to have to deal with cab drivers.
He takes the third exit far too fast and we shoot past the entrance to the Transport Company and through an open gate into - a wasteland.
'Stop.' It's a shout from the heart from me and my friend.
He slams on the brakes and glares. 'Is nothing here,' he mutters.
'That's because you've come down the wrong track,' we shout. We're women on the edge of reason and he's in dire danger of being hit over the head with our handbags.
The dockland area is awash with rain, the deep pits and holes in the tarmac lurking to entrap any unwary driver and snap their crank-shaft. A railway line snakes between the silent warehouses and our Russian is drawn to it like a moth to a flame - it seems he's been gripped by a death wish.
It's too late. The cab is now running smoothly along the railway lines - and we're heading for a tunnel.
'Get off - now!'
'Is wrong way,' he mutters, shaking his head. 'Is wrong, is wrong.' He's almost in tears.
At least he's finally been right about something today. 'Stop the car, calm down and get us off these lines.'
He yanks the wheel, rams his foot on the accelerator and we career off the rails - and into a pot hole. The shriek of metal crunching on something hard means he's probably lost part of his exhaust. Undeterred, he keeps his foot to the floor and we are again tearing over the potholes - but in the wrong direction.
'Not that way,' I tell him through gritted teeth.
He does a turn that Nikki Lauder would have been proud of and sets off, the cab bumping and jolting and rattling its way over the rough ground. He's obviously furious, and so are we.
He takes a right turn.
'Left!' we shout in unison.
'I know which way,' he shouts back. 'Is here, here - see?'
It isn't here. In fact it has now disappeared and is way behind us. 'Turn round, drive slowly and I'll show you exactly where it bloody is.'
He lifts his hands from the steering wheel, and with a great sigh and much rolling of eyes does as he's told.
'I'll pay you when you get the cases out of the car,' I tell him as he finally pulls up outside the Transport Company Warehouse.
He meekly unloads the cases, grunting as he lifts my friend's - it's huge and weighs a ton.
I pay him two-thirds of the fare.
He looks at me with soulful eyes - but I'm not moved. 'You not pay me right money,' he mutters.
'You not know where you going,' I reply.
The Russian climbs back into his cab, slams the door with all the venom he can muster, and roars off - in the wrong direction.
My friend and I look at one another and burst out laughing. It could take a while for him to get back to Sydney, for he's heading for the railway lines again.

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