Karl Wiggins is a rather irrepressible Indie author. If you’re familiar with Karl’s previous interviews, you’ll know that he often strays a bit from the main questions. However, I’ll forgive him for straying from mine in the interests of comedy. How on earth he ended up talking about John Ruskin’s wife and her pubes on a question about self-deprecating humour I’ll never know, and we also never find out how he got his scar (Karl that is, not John Ruskin)....
Karl’s Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Karl-Wiggins/e/B0034OVK3K/
1. You grew up in the Midlands but then moved to London when you were 11. Did you ever lose your Brummie accent along the way?
Thankfully yes. Let me tell you something. There’s nothing worse than taking a Brummie for a drink in Watford. Sue’s Dad’s a Brummie and he’s a nightmare.
“What d’you want, then?”
“Does they sell Banks’s?”
“No, that’s a Black Country brewery.”
“Oh R, I knoo that. It’s a Brumagen bevvy, but they probably sell it dowl eya as well.”
“No, they don’t. What d’you want to drink?”
“Well find ert if they sell Banks’s.”
“They don’t. This is a Fuller’s pub. Look at all the taps, there’s a whole selection of beer here. I’m having a London Pride. I’ll order one for you too.
“London Proide! Oi day want that. Are yom shoo-er she doy serve Banks’s? Aks ‘er.”
“I’ve told you, she doesn’t. Have a London Pride.”
“Naaa, naaa, I fancy a Banks’s, me.”
“Well don’t ‘ave a bleedin’ London Pride then! Look at the selection. You can have a Fuller’s Chiswick, a London Porter, a Past Masters, an ESB, a Honeydew, although it’s a bit sweet that one. Why don’t you have a Vintage Ale or a Seafarer’s? Or how about a Bengal Lancer?”
“Aks ‘er if she sells Banks’s. I’ll aks ‘er. D’ya sell Banks’s”
Blank stare from the barmaid.
“Two pints of Pride please, sweetheart.”
“Well I’m absolutely shocked. Oi cor believe a broo’us dowl eya in London doesn’t serve Banks’s. It’s a bostin bevvy.”
“We’re not in London. And even if we were, they still wouldn’t serve Banks’s.”
“Yom tellen me …. (pause for effect) … yom tellen me that pubs in London doy serve Banks’s? I cor believe that fer ‘un minute.”
(Bloody hell) “Leave it out, will you?”
I’ll tell you something else, shall Oi? (Sorry, got me talking like them now), I’ll tell you something else, shall I? When you Google “Stuck in His Ways” the first four pages are all Sue’s Dad. Try it. He has the same meal on the same day of the week at the same time with the same handkerchief half sticking out of his pocket. Say he comes down on Friday and we cook a meal for him. He’ll sit down, reach for the salt ‘n’ vinegar, look at his plate in total dismay and bewilderment and say, “What’s this?”
“But it’s Froydoy.”
“I yav fish ‘n’ chips on Froydoy.”
“Well, you’ve got liver tonight.”
You see, he just can’t compute it. Sometimes, for a laugh, you can bring in some of that ‘foreign muck’ food. And that really confuse him.
2. Were your parents or other family members piss-takers, or did you absorb the London piss-taking humour when you moved south?
I think piss-taking, or banter for a better word is in-bred into the English culture.
Stevie, you’re a Cockney. I once wrote taking the piss out of East Londoners and their love for pie ‘n’ mash. It’s called (unimaginatively) Pie ‘n’ Mash. When I first penned that article an East London writer, Joe Lawrence, the author of a superb book on Amazon entitled ‘The East End Butcher Boy,’ commented about the piece, correcting me on the meat in the pie and the fact that Tubby Isaacs sold jellied eels and not pie ‘n’ mash at all. I knew Tubby Isaacs sold jellied eels, of course, it was all part of the wind-up. But the thing with people from East London is that they have a wonderful, self-deprecating, sense of humour, and Joe ‘got’ the wind-up in the piece immediately. He knew it was a wind-up and wasn’t offended in the slightest.
I also have a great friend, Michelle, who I’m very fond of and who I once invited to a quiz night. “Fack me!” she said, “If there’s any questions about Chas ‘n’ Dave or jellied eels I’m you’re gel.”
Joe Lawrence, by the way, left school and went straight into the meat trade, mixing with villains and ….. well, read the book. An absorbing read.
I love it! I love banter. If you have no banter in your life then your very existence is all the poorer for it. In fact quite often people with no sense of banter or playfulness tend to have an increased sense of self-importance and pomposity.
Now I’m going to digress a little here, but you must have come across those serious twats that disapprove of everyone and haven’t cracked a smile since 1828. They wear woolly hats and glasses and they have bushy beards, not biker beards, but frizzy brown beards (even the women), and long brown coats, and they ride beaten up bicycles and greet everyone with a frown. Know they type?
Their profile pictures on Twitter are astounding. They can’t often put a smile on their face and you think, “Bloody hell, mate, if that’s the best photo you’ve got ….,
The bearded hat brigade are always angry at people who AREN’T angry themselves. The jangling cacophony of laughter, of chortles and glee, so upsets the apple cart of their intellectualism that they’ve become bitter and harsh in their judgements of other people. They are dry, dreary and arrogant.
You see there’s no banter amongst these people either, and if you have no banter in your life, your very existence is all the poorer and has been depleted of an art form that helps the world go around. Did I say art form? Certainly, for banter is an intelligent and witty art form, which frustrates the bearded hat brigade immensely because this form of verbal jousting requires both mental agility and precocity, both of which they believes they hold the monopoly on.
So where does he originate from? I’ll tell you. A younger version of Bearded Hattie are those blokes who at 20 years of age have yet to be knocked around by life, but at such a tender age have developed a sombre, contemplative outlook to the world they live in when they should be out chasing birds and getting laid. Because life has yet to kick them in the nads a few times, every imagined insult or derision of their character results in them getting all precious about it. They can’t take the banter and often respond with disdain and even hatred instead of witty repartee.
They need more sparkle and zest in their life.
Talking of which, why do you think Bearded Hattie is so angry all the time? Sexual repression, that’s why. All blokes look at boobs, right? But Bearded Hattie will never admit it. Why? Because he has feelings of shame, guilt and perhaps anxiety about his sexual tendencies. His naturally healthy urges concerning sexuality are kept under wraps because of the restrictions dictated by civilised society. He sees himself as bookish and highbrow and as such believes there is no place in his life for a ‘sexual intellectual.’
An early version of Bearded Hattie would be the Victorian writer, John Ruskin, who was shocked into sexual abstinence for the remainder of his life by the site of his wife’s pubic hair. She was a natural tease, extroverted and flirtatious, and felt very oppressed by her husband’s dogmatic personality.
The fact that Bearded Hattie is not sexually comfortable in his own skin means that he struggles with what he perceives as crude or vulgar thoughts, so he has to pretend that carnal cravings don’t exist.
But carnal cravings do exist. Like I say, all blokes look at boobs. Most of us try not to get caught, but we do (both look at boobs and get caught). Bearded Hattie looks at boobs as well of course, but would never, ever admit it. And that’s what makes him angry. However because he attempts to repress his strong sexual urges his sexual behaviour is in danger of getting out of control. There could, indeed, be a very dark side to Bearded Hattie.
All of this is probably bollocks. I’m not exactly a clinical psychologist, am I? It’s just my opinion.
I’ll tell you something else about Bearded Hattie, shall I? For all his intellectual superiority and perspicacity he’s skint. He hardly earns thrupence a week. Ha! Not such a slick propeller-head now, is he?
Oh yeah, I know, he chooses to live this way, right? Cycling his clapped-out push-bike instead of driving a brand new BMW. He’s one of these anti-capitalists. Bollocks! If someone handed him a winning lottery ticket he’d dump the egalitarian attitude and the anti-capitalist initiative marches in a New York heartbeat. The reason he’s skint is that despite his ‘superior intelligence’ he just can’t relate to anyone in the workplace, and thus gets overlooked for promotion every time.
People skills, BH, people skills!
The other thing I noticed about the bearded hat brigade is that there is no evidence of character-building experience in their faces. Most of us have experienced situations that have pushed us beyond our normal boundaries with the effect that we’ve expanded our positive self-image. Not so Bearded Hattie. There’s no REAL LIFE experience in his face.
And that is what has turned this vegetarian bicycle wearing, frowning, long-faced, stupid hat, stupid beard, stupid glasses, miserable twat, disapproving wanker into the broken, bitter mind that is Bearded Hattie.
This is a wonderful world and Bearded Hattie needs to search out the comedy in life and simply laugh – big belly laughs – until he cries.
Bearded Hattie needs to lighten the hell up!
(I didn’t answer your question, did I? Sorry about that)
3. Where in the world do you feel most at home? Have you any desire to move back to the Midlands?
Are you taking the piss! Do I look as if I have any deep-seated desire to move back to the Midlands and call everyone R Dad, R Sue, R Matty and say the letter ‘R’ instead of yes?
There’s a reason Brummie’s haven’t made much of a contribution to literature. Imagine if a Brummie has written Alice in Wonderland and based it in Birmingham;
“Alice was beginnen ter get well bolloxed of sitten by ‘er sister on the bonk, an’ of haven nothen ter do: once or twice she ‘ad peeped into the buck ‘er sister was readen, but it ‘ad naaa pictures or conversations in it, `an’ what is the use of a buck,’ thought alice `without pictures or conversation?’ so she was consideren in ‘er own mind (as well as she cud, fer the hot doy med ‘er feel well sleepy an’ stupid), whether the pleasure of maken a daisy-chain ood be worth the beef of getten up an’ picken the daisoys, when suddenly a white rabbit with pink eyes ran close by ‘er.”
I think it’s now clear why no great writers ever came from Birmingham.
In fact the only famous people who ever came out of Birmingham were Roy Wood (he was mates with Sue’s granddad, used to visit him in his council flat), Ozzy Osbourne, Geoff Nicholls & Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath, Carl Palmer, Cat Deeley, James & Oliver Phelps (the Weasley twins from Harry Potter), Enoch Powel and my brother-in-law, Matty.
No, our ‘spiritual home’ would have to be Portugal. We lived on the Algarve for four years, will probably retire there one day and when I cross over I want my ashes taken out to sea and dumped in the Atlantic.
4. How long did it take you to do the research for ‘Shit My History Teacher DID NOT tell me!’?
Oh, blimey, years! I’ve been writing that book for years. It’s an idea I’ve had forever. I’d love to do a series of books, starting off at the point in history where ‘Shit’ ended …. If you know what I mean.
It was the title that gave me more trouble than anything though. I was going to call it Marching through Madness, Old Jingleballicks, Whom the Gods Love, The Thorny Path of Greatness. The Programme Seller’s Arse and Shattered Glass. I’m sure you agree that ‘Shit’ is a better title.
I’ve already got a book entitled ‘Dogshit Saved my Life’ and in a couple of months or so I’m going to publish another one with ‘Shit’ in the title.
My life’s goal is to have a whole series of ‘Shit’ books.
5. Did dog shit really save your life (as in the title of your book)? If so, please inform the uninitiated……
It’s absolutely true, cross my heart and hope to die; dog shit really did save my life ….. but you’ll have to buy the book to find out how.
6. What famous line would you like to have written?
“Cheers to my haters. Be patient. So much more is coming” Leonardo Dicaprio in The Great Gatsby. And that goes out to all the trolls and sock-puppets and Goodreads librarians and negative shits and anyone else who resents people who have the courage to follow their dreams, and not only that but to show their dreams to somebody else.
I’ve discussed this elsewhere but it’s important, so I’ll repeat. Writers, musicians and artists used to be treated as romantics. The practice of an unconventional ‘Bohemian’ lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people was really exotic in the 19th century when marginalized and impoverished journalists, artists, writers, actors and musicians lived in the low-class, low-rent Gypsy neighbourhoods of Western Europe and were often regarded as wanderers, adventurers and even vagabonds, practicing free love and frugality. The original Flower Power children.
We’re literary Gypsies, all of us, and it’s only since the introduction of the Internet that we’re starting to realise that we’re not alone. The Internet is connecting all the healers and storytellers, the weird people and mystics, the writers and painters, the ones who are slightly cracked. I’ve always loved wild people.
“Here’s to the crazy ones,” said Jack Kerouac, “The misfits, the rebels, the trouble makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them or vilify them. The only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Why? Because they change things, that’s why. They push the human race forwards, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, WE SEE GENIUS! Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
The planet needs more writers, artists and musicians. More tattooed storytellers.
You can tell stories under starlight, when light tracking-snow is on the ground, and you hear elk feet shuffling in the hoarfrost. They can be about princesses and hobos, wagon trains coming from the east, caravans of forever children, and winter chilling the lap of October. Your whole psyche vibrates when a storyteller relates a tale, and it’s easy to believe that someone else is dreaming you.
Why so many people seem to resent the storyteller is beyond me. We’re not raging against the machine, but we do want the same opportunity to show our art to as many people as possible. What’s so wrong about that?
And believe it or not, we won’t go away. The confidence the trolls have in our failure, ensures our road to success.
7. When you’re not writing, which authors’ works do you like to read?
I just love American low-life. Bukowski, Harry Crews, John Fante, Dan Fante, and a lot of Jack London. But I’m trying to broaden my interests. I’ve just discovered an Indie author by the name of Shelley Young. Her book ‘The Blood Feud’ is the best book I’ve read this year, and without a doubt should be made into a TV drama series. ‘Plain Dealing’ is another of her books I’ve read recently, and there’s something about her writing that leads you to believe you’re holding a sparkler only to discover you’ve actually got hold of an atom bomb!
There are loads of great Indie authors out there – Carole McKee, MK Jubb, JM Johnson, Travis Casey, Hunter S. Jones, Sue Whitmer, Charlie Bray, Billierosie and I’m sure loads more.
8. Do your family complain about the time you spend writing, or have they got used to the sight of you hunched over a computer?
No they don’t. They’ve got used to me my now, but I don’t think they appreciate the world of a writer.
I love to write, and words are my magic. A chef’s magic is his ingredients, how he can substitute one for another and then break with convention by changing it all around again without once referring to the recipe. And then just at the death complete the beauty by adding another element never previously thought of. Well, words are the writer’s sorcery, our dark arts and our sleight of hand. They’re our enchantment and our temptation.
Writing is in my soul! I HAVE to write and I am always contemplating words. They flow around my brain, pulsating and swimming, knocking into one another until I can finally ambush them and leak them out onto the page. This, believe it or not, is how I write.
But, and this is a HUGE BUT, I am always being interrupted. I try and give full attention – because I totally believe in the family – but my mind’s in turmoil. I keep a straight face and listen intently, but inside I’m going over and over words I desperately want to get down on paper before I lose them.
Very few understand what it’s like to be married to a writer, least of all their spouse.
9. What are you writing now?
Oh, I am so exited about this next book. You know all those Agony Aunt columns in the national newspapers? Or Advice Columnists if you live across the pond? They’re all crap, right? They’re all so bloody patronising and condescending.
Not me. I rip ‘em apart. “I had an affair and now my girlfriend’s left me”
“Well, you’d better get down on your knees and bloody beg, old son.”
I used to have an Agony Uncle column in a small publication and my straightforward approach seem to raise a few chuckles. In the end I suspected people were writing in with stupid questions just so I could take the piss out of them.
I’m having so much fun writing this book/
10. If you were writing your autobiography, what parts of your life would you take the piss out of?
Let me tell you story, and it leads on from the last question.
In this section of the book I’m replying to a reader who’s written in because she’s stressed because she’s got too much going on in their head that she can’t concentrate on anything, even the simplest conversation. Part of reply goes like this;
“Boy, you really are screwed up, aren’t you? Let me tell a little story;
“When I was 20 years of age I spent a winter in a tent in the Forêt de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside Paris. I was with a girlfriend, Erica, and I guess we must have been tough kids because I certainly wouldn’t do it now.
“I’d found work as a kitchen porter but as spring approached we decided to hitch-hike down to Benidorm in Spain in the hope of picking up bar work. It took us a week or so to get down to Benidorm, and one night we camped in a camp site just outside St-Rémy-de-Provence, where they celebrate Bastille Day with a miniature ‘running of the bulls,’ although thankfully it wasn’t Bastille Day.
“We left St. Remy without any breakfast, and for some reason I felt very irritable. We had a long way to walk down country lanes, and the rucksack and tent I was carrying on my shoulders felt incredibly heavy and cumbersome. I kept switching the tent from one shoulder to the other, and as I swung it up one last time a peg or a pole or something dug in me.
“It was just one of those moments that really grinds your gears. Like picking up a coffee cup with the coaster sticking to the bottom of it and then dropping in your fried egg. Or putting your boxers on and your big toe gets caught in the elastic, dragging you down to the floor with the motion of your foot. I’m sure you know what I mean.
“Swearing at the top of my voice I slung the tent into a nearby stream, wrestled my way out of the rucksack, showed the countryside my impersonation of Hulk Hogan by giving it a full body slam onto the floor, stuck the boot in, kicked a tree (which no doubt cowered before my majestic force) and then stormed off down the road shouting and swearing at a French dog in English. A woman came out of a little cottage, shouting at me in French, so I gave her the same Anglo-Saxon treatment the dog had just received.
“And that was me. I was marching off to Benidorm without the rucksack, without the tent, without Erica, without my passport ………. fuck! Without my passport. What was I going to do without my fucking passport? Well, sod it, I wasn’t going back now. I mean, it’d be embarrassing, wouldn’t it? But what was I to do now? Don’t know. Sneak through the border, I suppose. Fuck it, just keep walking.
“(The only reason I’m able to deal out the advice I do, you see, is because I’ve done more stupid shit than most people)”
That’s probably a section of my life that I’d take the piss out of.
(I’m not your regular Agony Aunt, am I?)
11. If you were alone on a desert island, which book would help to ease the loneliness?
There’s an old copy of Reader’s Wives that I used to be quite partial to. If I could find that, I’d probably stick it in my back pocket for company.
12. Which one is the most fascinating of your 150 deep sea dives?
We were mustard divers back then. I used to go down to about 30mtrs, take my gear off, push it through a little rock – or rather a little hole in a big rock – swim around the rock and put it on again.
But my best dive was a shark dive off the coast of Catalina Island in California. I went in the cage four times and we were surrounded by seven-foot blue sharks. Once the teeth had gone past you could stroke them. We were surface fed, so when they wanted us up they’d give a small tug on the hose.
The scariest part was climbing into the cage because you couldn’t see anything, and you had to drop through about 18” of water before dropping into the cage. Climbing out wasn’t so bad.
On the last dive we took some mackerel down with us and I’ve got pictures of me feeding a seven-foot blue hand-to-mouth.
On our 100th dive my mate and I took a blow-up doll down with us. We hid behind a rock, conserving our air until all the other divers were back on the boat. Have you ever tried blowing up a rubber doll under water? You’ve only got to blow it up half way because the air will expand on ascent, but it’s bloody hard work. And on top of that we could hardly breathe because we laughing so much.
We got it kitted out in my mate’s buoyancy jacket and air bottle, purged some air so the blokes on the boat would see bubbles and be prepared for divers coming up and then sent the blow-up doll up.
My mate came up on my air.
13. Has your sometimes ‘inappropriate’ humour ever got you into trouble?
All the time! People can be so bloody precious about things like that. I’ve had some great 1-star reviews. “Garbage, the greatest load of pretentious nonsense that I ever had the misfortune to read” was one of the better ones, but I’m okay with that because I’m very much aware that my sense of humour isn’t to everyone’s taste, and that not everyone ‘gets’ me. So I take the 1 Stars as a compliment because if all I write about is autumn mists and weary rocks and caramel brown rivers and turquoise waters and babies smiling and musical brooks and the eternal war of the sea and the shore and all that other slushy stuff then I’m not being controversial enough.
I mean, really! Does anybody read shit like that?
14. Who is your favourite comedian? The old school Tommy Cooper / Norman Wisdom, or the more modern stand-up comedians?
Oh blimey. Humour has evolved so much over the last 50 years from Monty Python, Billy Connolly, Richard Prior, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Only Fools & Horses, Jack Dee, Al Murray, Michael Macintyre, Rhod Gilbert, John Bishop and so on. They’ve all added their unique way of looking at the world and how it amuses them to this planet’s psyche, and thanks to each and every one of them we all talk slightly different to our friends and family.
Nowadays a sense of humour is universally recognised personality trait that is an essential component of the complete person. We now take ourselves a lot less seriously than we did back in 1964. Can you imagine arriving back in the 60’s with the quick, ready banter that is nowadays an intelligent and witty art form requiring both mental agility and precocity, while everyone’s still laughing at a pie in the face?
15. Reading your interview with MarSocial’s Cap’n Joe, how did you get the ‘interesting‘ scar on your left shoulder?
It was very heroic actually. There were six old ladies mugging this chav …
Actually, changing the subject, have you ever noticed that Chavs tend to hang out in the same kind of places as pigeons?
It’s been suggested that Chavs are the offspring of previous working-class youth subcultures such as Skinheads and in turn Mods, but when you think about it, they’re not at all, are they? Chavs (with their larger bellies, hairless bodies and excessive sweat glands) are evolution in reverse, proof that, given time, Homo Sapiens can devolve into a more primitive life form. With Chavs, evolution has not only hesitated but is actually in withdrawal. Chavs may well be the ‘missing link’ in the devolution of man into anthropoid.
You think I’m kidding? I’ll offer proof. First of all the laws which govern human interaction are completely missing. If you listen to a couple of Chavs out on a date together you’ll soon realise that Chav-speak is designed for a mobile phone keyboard. Admittedly it bears a passing resemblance to Homo Sapiens but not much;
“Dats bangin’ mate!!”
“I iz bangin in de ghetto.”
“And then I was like…”
“Innit” (I am too thick to get a job)
“And then I was like…”
“Look dats ol me bledrins! Bunch of wankers they is.”
“And then I was like…”
“Innit” (Aren’t these big hoop earrings just lovely? I’m training my pit bull to jump through them)
“Caaaaaaw you ffffiiiiiiitt! Get yer tits owt!”
“Innit” (Why don’t we go to the park and have a picnic? I’ll steal some Cornish pasties, you go rob us a car).
“Innit” (I have the clap, rabies, HIV, Weils disease, leprosy and the black death)
“My name’s not Den. I’ll break yer neck.”
“Yo Yo Yo, I have no beef with you, dawg.”
“I declare Jihad on yo ass!”
“Innit” (I hate you because you is better than me)
“Innit” (I hate toilet seats because they is better than me. At least they have a job)
“Innit” (I’d like to make love to your pit bull)
Get the picture? Now I believe that self-sustaining people are those who act in a way consistent with their own survival as a race. However I also believe that the cosmos is deliberately, bit-by-bit discarding unproductive creatures such as Chavs through natural preference. And this in itself will permit evolution to advance because advancement of the species relies just as much upon the non-breeding of these individuals, as upon the breeding of self-sustaining individuals.
Granted it’s almost impossible to prevent Chavs from breeding, but when a Chav reproduces evolution is halted and devolution commences. Chavs truly are the missing link of society.
Take a look at a Chav; Short neck, long low skull, massive brow ridge, receding forehead, underdeveloped chin and large front teeth. Lacking the muscular definition, but apart from that anatomically a Neanderthal.
So you’re hardly likely to find a Chav mating with a lady of charm, beauty and elegance are you? The subsidised breeding farms they live in are unlikely to attract a lady who has cultivated proper deportment, and it’s doubtful she’ll be swayed by his shell suit, Burberry cap and Vauxhall Corsa.
This is all the more evident when viewing the decline of intelligence in the Chav of the species, for what we currently have is excessive propagation of less intelligent human beings, viewing large numbers of offspring as little more than insurance policies for old age. However if they continue to reproduce indiscriminately the welfare state will no longer be able to sustain them. Legislative measures will be essential to restrict birth rates amongst people of low ambition and inferior achievement levels.
As the human race gradually evolves most of us will become beings of light, gradually transparent and invisible to the eye, with little use for human bodies. Chavs on the other hand, will devolve until they eventually learn to breathe through gills again, return to the water and become seaweed.
Darwin would turn in his grave.
16. What incident finally made you decide to give up driving cabs in Los Angeles?
I just had one too many guns pushed in my face, too many drivers got shot and I got ribbed too many times. It’s all in my book ‘Grit – The Banter and Brutality of the Late-Night Cab Driver.’
17. When you lived in the US, did the Americans ‘get’ your sense of humour?
That’s a broad question because America is so vast. I write a column for a New York newspaper and I recently penned an article entitle ‘Across America in less than 900 words.’ But your question’s about humour. Californian’s didn’t get it, but I have really great mates from ‘Back East (New York, Detroit etc.) who are so much fun to be around and have a very sharp wit. I’m very close friends with a large family of New York (Noo Yoik) Italians. Sue and I got married in the Bronx and they all turned up, inviting the whole wedding party to Ma & Pop’s house the next day for Sunday lunch. They are hard as nails, but between them they kept everyone laughing all day.
Having said that my books seem to becoming popular with a number of American women. I guess the humour’s different and they appear to like that.
18. What did you find was the biggest difference between living and working in the US as opposed to the UK?
No kebabs. And the fact that when someone’s called Bob he doesn’t want to be called Bob. You have to call him Barb, like short for Barbara. And if his name’s Todd he/they want to be call Tard. And the fact that they say, “What’s up?” and I’m thinking, “Nothing’s up. Why do you think something’s up?” And the next day I’d see them I’d say, “Alright?” and they’re thinking, “Of course I’m alright. Why wouldn’t I be alright?”
And the beer’s shit.
19. Did you ever give anybody famous a ride in your cab? If so, did they speak to you?
Nelly Micicioiu. You’ve never heard of her, have you? She was a world-famous opera singer, described as “one of the most versatile artists of our day.” Still without a waver in her voice at 50 years of age. I took her to Terminal 2 to kick-off a month-long tour. We had an enlightening conversation and she’s expressed a genuine interest in seeing some of my writing.
But it was the others who stayed in my memory. There was the single father with an 11-year-old daughter. He was a big guy, rough and ready, with tattoos all over his hands. His little girl has cancer. They lived above the shops in Honeypot Lane, Stanmore. Coincidentally, when I was at school, I used to do a paper-round from the very newsagents they lived above. Just to get home they had to walk 100 yards or so down an unlit alley peppered with drunks, and Somalian refugees. My heart went out to both of them.
I remember taking these three pissheads to Watford. They looked like trouble, so I demanded money up front. They were really pissed, but they grudgingly paid up. When we stopped at a red traffic light in Watford, one of them shouted, “Now!” and they burst the doors open and legged it ….. completely forgetting that they’d already paid.
Joe and his family from the Pickle Jar, where Lisa’s brother got glassed the previous week. Joe and his family lived in a trailer with a yard full of engine parts and dead bikes and half a dozen dogs.
Mrs. Pork Chop (which was what I called her) has grey in her pubes. At least that’s what she told me.
I used to pick up George from Plastics at the hospital. Had his ear cut off with a Machete in Nigeria. They’ve built him a new one. You don’t really notice it at first. George tends to panic in traffic. Mind you, so would I if some twat cut my ear off.
Olive. Nursing Home to Day Centre, and back again in the evening. Wears a nappy, which is just as well. Mind you, at least you can get a half decent conversation out of Olive.
Unlike Richard. “I’ve got a Rover car, you know. I used to be an electrical engineer. I’ve got a big house.” Richard refuses to wear a nappy, and actually pissed on a driver’s seat one day. The Health Authority wouldn’t pay for it. Bastards. £50 to get it cleaned, let alone the money the driver lost while off circuit. “I used to be an electrical engineer, you know. I’ve got a Rover car. I brought it over from Holland. I’ve got a big house.”
Whatever you say, Richard.
And sometimes you get scared. And because you’ve always got one ear to the radio, a lot of the time you fear for your mates and not yourself. You only hear one side of a story this way and have to guess what’s going on with the other drivers, but for the most part you’re pretty much aware of their location and if they’re likely to be in trouble. You can also judge the controller’s mood and can tell if anyone’s pissing her off and, more to the point, whether it might be wise to pick her up a bag of chips or a Chinese on the way back to base.
“… That you, Frankie? Two Two Frankie? That you? … Zero Five Baz, where are you? … Barry? … Zero Five Baz? … Who said that? Who said that? … One Two Ronnie, was that you? Ronnie, where are you? … Ronnie? …Ronnie One Two … Ronnie? … Ronnie, if you’re out bloody blagging again you can tell whoever’s in the car with you that I’m not accepting the pick up. Explain to them just what that means, Ronnie. If you can hear me, people, I apologise for swearing earlier, but I’m not accepting your ride through this office. What that means is that you’re not insured. You need to book your lift through this office for you to be insured, and I’m sick to death of him, so if he smashes the car up taking you home then it’s going to be Ronnie you’ll be chasing for any compensation and not the insurance company. You listening, Ronnie? … Now who called in earlier? … Zero Four, you all right? … One Eight Karl, you alright, love?”
“Yeah, One Eight, don’t worry about me, Lisa.”
“Okay, One Five Floyd, you there? You all right? … Who said that earlier? … One Two Ziggy, are you okay? … Pete One Four, where are you? … Okay Pete listen, the police are on their way. They’ll be there any minute …”
“Where is he, Lisa? I’ll go to him.”
“No, he’s too far away, Karl, you’d never make it … the police will be there any second now, Pete.”
You hear these one-sided conversations all night long, although not quite as dramatic as this one. Pete the Freak took a right spanking that night.
20. If you were driving a London cab today, which 3 items would you like to have with you?
1) A Sat-Nav, Never had a Sat-Nav in my day.
2) Lennie McClean. He’s dead, isn’t he? I’d still have him with me anyway.
3) And I don’t know what else. I know, you. I’d have you with me, Stevie, so we could chat all night.
Thank you for a most entertaining interview Karl, although I’m not sure I’d want to travel in your cab next to the corpse of Lennie McClean (perhaps you can prop him up in the front with you?)...............!