I didn't tell you about a crazy-beautiful thing that happened to GJ and I recently, while I was going through my more maudlin phase... Watch out, because I think I'm heading right back there soonest - In spite of the lovely sunshine there's been of late...
Anyhoo, we went to my cousin's partner's fabulous 50th Birthday party in North Shields. You might remember, at the Magnesia Bank, and we stayed at the Grand Hotel in Tynemouth.
Cue a Fhina history-featurette...
"The Grand Hotel, was originally built in 1872 as a summer residence for the Duchess of Northumberland, and was converted to a Hotel some five years later".
I'd been wanting to go to this hotel for many years... It's an iconic edifice. Victorian, in a magical location overlooking Long Sands in Tynemouth. It's a treat. It is very grand, its elegant staircase sweeps clockwise upwards past majestic acid-etched, arched windows, and I'd managed to secure our double room, (with a sea view if you peeked out around the side of the bathroom window blind and up through a narrow alley filled with cars!), at a price which was easy on Fhina's pocket...
And, at the end of the evening, we left the party to seek a taxi to take us back to our dreamy hotel.
We wandered out into the unusually quiet street, and we walked and we walked, not exactly sure of where a taxi rank would be...
Avoiding one of the roughest parts of town, where I feared we might be mugged, I began to get a little anxious, and we ended up in front of an all-night Kebab shop. I called to GJ that I was going inside to ask the owners and/or customers where we might find a taxi.
The handsome Young Turks, in their red T-shirts as uniform, looked at me a little puzzled, seeing as my order didn't include a request for char-grilled chicken in Pitta bread, or slices from an elephant's leg, and a suave older, officious looking man, dark hair dappled with grey, black leather jacket, brown Farah trousers, shimmied out from the back of the shop, chattering quickly, Filofax at the ready.
He ushered me out of the shop, I didn't understand the conversation that had been going on between he and the younger men, and I meekly followed. By now GJ had re-appeared, and confused, I said to my startled husband, "I think this gentleman is going to show us where the taxi rank is".
We tappy-lapped behind him, unsure of where exactly we were headed. He spoke to my husband, in heavily accented, halting English... We both heard. "I drive. You pay?" We nodded.
We were led to his little blue car, black leather seats. Spotless. He removed a large red plastic bread basket from the back seat and I slid in. GJ took up 'shotgun' position, and began to ask about what the ride would cost us. I checked the door locks in case of a quick exit...
The man asked us what we would be willing to pay. GJ mentioned a reasonable night-time taxi fare, slightly more than we'd paid earlier that evening to get to the Maggie Bank.
...We waited, thinking this was a very, very strange position to be in. Odd. Surreal.
This is the kind of thing that sometimes happens to you when you're on holiday abroad, but never in England... The man smiled and countered, starting the car's engine. "No, no, that's too much!"
We both insisted, "No, you're very kind, it's really not enough!"
A typically polite English response, perhaps... We were incredulous.
And we enjoyed the swiftest ride of our lives, buckled in to our seats, as he whizzed through the streets of North Tyneside, explaining hurriedly that he worked as a delivery driver for the shop, and business was slow, very slow, owing to the biting recession... No-one buying kebabs or pizza any more... "Dead." he said.
And this kind man drew up outside of the hotel, narrowly avoiding the Police car coming in the opposite direction on the correct side of the road, and decanted us right in front of the entrance to the Grand.
GJ handed over the folding dosh, and I shoved silver and copper coins as a tip into his hand, which he was pleasantly refusing to take. I insisted.
"Bless you", I called... Bless him, indeed.
We entered the bar for a last night-cap, laughing over our experience...
This is my luck. This is my life. This is the odd sort of thing that happens to me. I never hear of such things happening to other people. These are my crazy days.
There are some good souls left, non?!