Thursday 9.15am: Watford Junction station to Rickmansworth
I can’t stop looking at my driver’s hands. He has big, chunky silver rings each adorned by huge colourful stones. The y look amazing against his tan hands and I wonder how heavy they are collectively.
Our conversation however, starts with the ever-changing traffic layout around the station. He believes that the powers-that-be are trialling different configurations ahead of 2012, when the station will link with the Eurostar. He’s worried that that nobody seems to know what they are doing and I know already where this conversation will lead…
As we start talking about the preparations for the Olympics in 2012, it becomes clear that we’re on different sides of the fence. He’s got a pretty pessimistic outlook on it all, referring to the Millennium and the new Wembley Stadium delays as examples of how we don’t pull these things off. He’s worried about the delays – why haven’t they started building the stadium yet? – and of course, the cost. I am much more hopeful and keep offering alternative views. Perhaps they’re investing time into the planning of it all; in my experience actual buildings can get knocked up pretty quickly once the work starts.
It was inevitable that the conversation would turn to the logo. He sees the public derision and the inadvertent triggering of epileptic seizures from the brand film as signs of impending doom for the whole project. I explain that I’m feeling pretty gleeful at how much conversation it has provoked, that personally I quite like it and think we’ll all look at it differently when it’s dancing all over London in 5 years time.
Although we disagree, the discussion is goodnatured. After a pause he tells me that he watched a programme about preparations for the Beijing Olympics and how everyone is getting involved and different groups are being brought together. It feels like a good note on which to end the Olympic discussion, so we slip into silence.
But then, I can’t resist, I compliment him on his jewellery which kicks off a different conversation.
He tells me that his ring collection started with two rings he bought himself in Syria. His wife was going crazy indulging in gold jewellery, and as he stood around waiting for her gave into temptation himself. He bought silver as the Koran says men shouldn’t wear gold. He has always believed this himself, and tells me that a German scientist has proved that gold can have the effect of speeding up a man’s heartbeat. Since then, friends and family have bought him rings (mostly from the Middle East), so that now he has a fine collection.
He doesn’t know what all the stones stand for, but once picked up a young female fare who had studied gem stones and precious metals. He tested her on her knowledge of the men and gold issue and determining she was a credible source of information listened while she told him of the properties of each one.
He doesn’t remember them all now, but does remember that one of his original rings is meant to be good for protection. The stone is supposed to have calming properties and he feels this is a good thing for a cab driver to wear. So this ring he wears everyday while changing the others. It was his favourite anyway – it has an inscription from the Koran