I HAVE been fastidious in detailing my many inadequacies in this column. Yet I am aware that, like the various species of the Amazon basin, there are many more to be discovered.
Nevertheless, I have mentioned previously that I should not be approached for directions. I am an anti-compass, or, more accurately, a pocket watch which has been mistaken for a compass and so is occasionally, if coincidentally and unpredictably, correct.
The point is the British public has been warned, and what unfolds here was clearly not my fault, any more than it would be the fault of the hungry lion if, say, Jedward climbed into his enclosure, sprayed lion-attracting scent all over their stupid bodies, and cried: “Come and play with us, lion, for everyone loves us!”
I had staggered off the bus on my way into work. It had not been an easy journey. Some-one had been leaning against the bell and it rang every time we went over a pothole. Even now, when I hear a bell I jerk in my seat, like Pavlov’s bus passenger. And I’d left my umbrella on it.
I was walking along drizzly Hanover Street, when a car slowed alongside me. “Walk in a brisk, emphatically masculine manner,” I thought, keen not to give out the wrong signals.
“Scuse me, mate,” said a voice from the car, in a Cockney accent, as a bus hissed past on the wet road. “Do you know where Leeds Street is?”
I sighed, and looked in the car, a three-door supermini. There were three men inside: the passenger speaking to me, the driver, and one in the back. “Yes, I thought, I do know where Leeds Street is. It is a stone’s throw from the Liverpool Daily Post Hyperdome, my destination. Were I a crow, I would find it easily.”
However, Liverpool has a one-way traffic system, and describing the route to Leeds Street from Hanover Street would be like solving a Rubik’s Cube over the phone. And it was raining. I made a foolhardy decision.
“It’s a bit complicated, but . . . I’m going that way myself. If you want to give me a lift . . . ?” I said. The three men considered my proposal, then the passenger got out.
“Cheers, mate,” he said, and he tilted the front passenger seat forward. I looked up at him for a moment. He was about four inches taller than me. Then it occurred to me that I was the one going in the back.
I stumbled in, climbing intimately past the passenger in the back, who was wedged in and unable to move, and sat behind the driver, my knees framing my face. And off we went.
It transpired that my knowledge of the one-way system in the city centre was not quite as complete as I had thought. Some roads which I had believed to be one-way were indeed one-way, but in the opposite direction. There was a significant number of three-point turns involved.
“Are you sure you know where this road is?” asked the driver, a laugh in his voice and murder in his heart.
I could see the amount of goodwill I had built up by offering to guide the men was being rapidly burnt away. I became suddenly aware that I could soon be sharing a car with three very hostile strangers. And I didn’t have an umbrella with which I could defend myself.
In the nick of time, by chance more than design, we arrived in Leeds Street. “Sorry about that, lads,” I said. And I clambered over the wedged passenger, introducing my buttocks to his face a second time.
“Cheers, mate. We’re looking for a vanilla factory on here somewhere,” said the front-seat passenger, as he got back into the car.
“Ha ha,” I said. “You’d better ask somebody else for directions to that. You know me.” We laughed.
I scarpered. Because I did know where the Vanilla Factory was. It is pretty much behind where the men had stopped me. Apparently, “Fleet Street” sounds like “Leeds Street” from a car when a wet bus is barrelling past.
Please add cowardice and deafness to my list of inadequacies.