Monday, December 03, 2007

I had that Rachmaninov in the back of my cab...

Cabbies in London always listen to Heart, Magic or Radio 5 Live. In my experience, this holy trinity of radio stations is never challenged, suggesting that the choice is dictated in some initiation ceremony held at the completion of The Knowledge. ("I'm sorry, mate, but you failed on the left turn just before the southbound approach to the Blackwall Tunnel. I'm not able to allocate Heart on this occasion, but please feel free to listen to Magic in your cab. More music, less talk.")

Visiting Dublin at the end of last week, I was delighted to find the cabbies to be driving in the intellectual equivalent of fifth gear. My driver from the airport into town - a big guy with a shaved head - was tuned into a discussion of classical music on RTE Radio One. The presenter and his guest had those incredibly polite and rather posh Irish accents that I associate with people such as the late Professor Anthony Clare who used to headshrink celebs on Radio 4. Or maybe Henry Kelly off Game for a Laugh and Going for Gold. They were talking about arpeggios and the link between music and eighteenth century mathematics. Words such as "apotheosis" were being sprinkled liberally in conversation.

The driver who returned me to the airport the following day was listening to a political "shock jock" imported from America. This right-wing Republican was speaking to Irish callers on a phone-in and telling them how successful the war in Iraq had been. When the questions got a little difficult, the callers were cut off and he went to the next line. My driver said that he never missed the show. Not only that, but he'd actually had this pundit in his cab for two hours once and had engaged him in debate for the whole journey. Given the state of the traffic in Dublin, I suspect they'd only managed to go from one end of O'Connell Street to another.

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