Friday, 27 June 2014



My mind drifted back to a conversation I had with a taxi driver in Consett many years ago. He was a burly man who spent so much time in his vehicle it appeared to have moulded itself around him. He was like some latter day centaur - half bloke, half Nissan Primera. A plasterer's cap was permanently affixed to his head and from beneath it wild and wiry hair stuck out at all angles like stuffing escaped from a sofa. Mirrored shades, a Zapata moustache and a voice that had the wheezing rumble of ancient rolling stock were other characteristics.

I'd taken many journeys with this taxi driver and was aware that his working day was one long conversation that started the minute he turned the ignition and continued on through his shift regardless of the constant changes in the back of the vehicle. " . . . I mean, it's a tragedy when you think about it," he was saying as I slid on to the blue velour zebra-striped rear seat and inhaled that unmistakable mini-cab smell of fresh mountain pine, king size, curry and vomit. "A hundred years plus of football ended at the flick of a lighter." I judged from this that he was speaking of the recent demise of a non-League club, forced to fold after an arson attack on its clubhouse.

"It was vandals, was it?" I asked him, because that is what I had read in the local papers. The taxi driver let out a world-weary sigh. "Mebbes, Though I heard a few weeks before she went up they got notice of an Inland Revenue audit. And there's nowt more likely to spark a blaze in a Durham club than a letter from the Revenue."

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