It was supposed to be a nice day, special, a once in a life time event, it was that alright.
I had that ‘oh no please, not one of those days’ feeling when the cab failed to show up to take me to Stevenage station at 6.50am to catch the train to Newcastle. It was Graduation Day for my first born, first in the family , first graduation ever.
The response to my frantic calls to the cab company was that traffic was bad in Flitwick. I catch the train from Flitwick all the time - the traffic is never un-negotiable at 6.50am.
A cab and sleepy driver arrived (was he safe?) The company must have had all of its best cars out blocking up the roads in Flitwick, because what arrived looked like a pre-war version of an old Cortina which was incapable of exceeding 20mph. It was also in pretty bad internal repair, a couple of squatting chickens wouldn't have looked out of place on the back seat. (Was it safe?)The driver asked me did I know the way and my heart sank.
Suffice to say a series of disasters befell me. A missed train, and then a journey of station hopping as I crawled up the Pennines, trying to time an arrival at a major station to coincide with a fast train: it didn’t happen. I went from one freezing cold station to the next, in miserable un-heated carriages, looking at my watch. The ceremony started at 2.30pm. My phone warbled with a message from she who had no idea what was happening, to tell me she was the very first on.
I finally arrived after 7 hrs on the verge of frantic distress at Newcastle Station and dived into a cab it was 2. 22pm.
I asked the cab driver how long it would take - 10 minutes he said - it was too much to bear. I had spent 7 hrs on a series of trains from hell and I was about to miss a moment I had planned, and looked forward to, all of my adult life.
I couldn't answer the cabbie when he asked me what I was doing in Newcastle, an overwhelming feeling of maternal guilt had consumed me and I began to cry.
“Eeeh pet” he said, “I know me drivins not the best but it’s never made no one cry before. Me missus says ah drive too fast like bit it’s never made her weep, what's up pet?”
I told him. “Reet” he said , “breathe in pet and hang on to yer seat belt, ah think they call this a white knuckle ride” - and he went for it. I felt like an extra in Back to the Future as he nipped in and out of side roads and zoomed up a steep hill in 3rd gear.
As I went to get my money out of my purse, he yelled “get out get out run it doesn't matter.” I obeyed because I knew I only had seconds.
I ran straight through the door and was met by the Marshall, who ushered me straight through the inner door - wise friends had kept me an aisle seat near the entrance. I sat as I heard the Provost say the words Batchelor of Arts with Honours in Ancient History, followed by my daughter’s name. I turned and saw my beautiful daughter, head bobbing high with pride, walk down the centre aisle, long blonde hair billowing out behind her, beaming as she caught my eye.
Another 10 seconds and I would have missed one of the proudest moments of my life.
God bless all Geordie taxi drivers.
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