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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I know a few taxi drivers in Istanbul who would be happy to come to Ibiza and help with the cab shortage.

They specialise in upping the cost for holidaymakers and would drive them to the airport in droves, take all their money and leave them vowing never to return to the island, thus pleasing the environmentalists.

I stepped into a whole Third World of rip-offs the other week when I was accompanied in Turkey by an English Morris Dancer (you know, those blokes that wear clogs and drink real ale by the gallon). He was wearing shorts.

It was the shorts what did it! The heavily moustachioed driver said not a word as my companion hitched himself into the front seat as though he hadn't noticed the white legs sticking out like lolly sticks jammed into a King Edward potato.

He took us from the Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express, to somewhere near the Blue Mosque (we were looking for the World Famous Pudding Shop) and grunted towards the meter which was showing an incomprehensible 71,000,500 somethings. "That's seventy one million," I deciphered, "which is about thirty five quid and is nonsense. Offer him a fiver."

The Morris Dancer has not been used to this kind of negotiation when selling his history (very good it is) of the Saddleworth Annual Rushcart Festivals, or whatever it's called, which costs £5 and that's it. You either pay up or you don't get one, lad.

He tentatively handed over a 10,000,000 note. There. He gave himself away in a moment by not being positive about it. The driver shook his head. My erstwhile friend handed him another note. Then another. "Stop," I cried. "He'll let you carry on till you've nothing left."

I got out of the back underneath a conker tree, of all things, and my friend reluctantly opened his door. "You don't have to run off," I said. "You've given him enough to feed half of Turkey."

That was a bit of an exaggeration, but the man with the large moustache drove away without a murmur whilst I collected several large conkers.

I was telling the taxi driver about this on the way home from the airport, home safely at this time of turbulence in the skies.

"I wish I could get hold of one of those meters," he said.

Incidentally, I had wanted to look in at the World Famous Pudding Shop in case there were any messages for me.

It's the place where hippies met in the Seventies before heading overland to Khatmandu and left notes for each other as they too-ed and fro-ed before deciding Formentera would be a better bet.

This is where and how they learned about buying and selling and how there comes to be a successful hippie market on Ibiza to this day.

Nothing is sacred, not even the Blue Mosque. There are people making money from tourists all over the place and all it needed really was for Mohammed to come down and cast them out.

All I'm saying is that millions of tourists, many of them Americans, go to Istanbul every year and leave believing that Islam equals profiteering. At the end of the Holy War, the West will give the East a great deal of money for reparation.

I'm quite sure some will find its way to people who would love to use it to buy a taxi in San Antonio.

Sinclair Newton