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Rear View Mirror: It's only a hug

Hackneyed it's not . . . introducing actor, stand-up comic and Liverpool taxi driver Tony Schumacher's take on life on the streets after dark

Written by . Published on June 22nd 2010.

Rear View Mirror: It's only a hug

GEORGE Formby (one for the kids, this) once sang a song called “Leaning on a Lamp-post” (I’m guessing he sang it more than once, but you get the point).In it he sings:

“I'm leaning on a lamp-post at the corner of the street, In case a certain little lady comes by.

Oh me, oh my, I hope the little lady comes by. 

I don't know if she'll get away, She doesn't always get away, But anyhow I know that she'll try. 

Oh me, oh my, I hope the little lady comes by.

There's no other girl I would wait for, But this one I'd break any date for...”

She hugged the lamp-post for a moment and had a little cry. The lamp-post did that British thing of pretending not to notice. Had it possessed hands I’m guessing it would have almost patted her back


Now, looking at this today, 70-odd years on, I think it’s fair to say this would be considered tantamount to harassment. At the very least sufficient evidence to present to a court as grounds for an injunction.

Poor old George would be signing the register for the next 18 months under the strict warning that if found loitering near any street furniture in the future, he, and his little stick of Blackpool rock, would be slammed into Walton pending reports.

That is, of course, if he hadn’t already been questioned at the scene and ordered to open his ukulele case and empty his pockets on the bonnet of a patrol car.

“We need your name for the stop and search form”

“Oooh, mother! Turned out nice again!”

“Just your name, sir”

“Hey, hey! Never touched me!”

“Are you alleging we have assaulted you sir?”

Why the hell am I writing about George Formby? It’s just that the other night I saw someone leaning on a lamp-post (it was halfway down a street); it wasn’t George, although it was a little lady.

She and a male friend had walked past the cab while I was doing the crossword in the paper. It was a warm night and I had the windows open and the radio off.

Sitting in town inside a darkened cab is a unique experience, the world passes you by and plays out a million scenes and sometimes it’s hard not to feel a bit like a bird watcher in his hide. This was one of those occasions.

The young couple, who sounded like they were from out of town, maybe students, were having a domestic. They were both drunk, and I mean drunk, and it sounded like one of those pointless arguments drunk people have,

“Leave me alone!”

“I haven’t done anything”

“Leave me alone, just go away!”

“Okay, suit yourself!”

“Where are you going?”

“You told me to...”

“I don’t want to talk about it! Why did you do it?”

“I thought...”

“Leave me alone.”

The young lad was truly exasperated, his flopping hands and confused sighs made him sound like an Ivor The Engine tribute act (“Tonight, Matthew, I am going to pull Jones the steam out of a hole!”) and the poor girl truly did not know which way to turn. She spun and pirouetted, torn between walking away and carrying on the fight.

Now I don’t know what had taken place, for all I knew the young lad had been playing trouser trumpet with her best mate, or maybe it was just a case of the vodka shots doing the adding up for her:

Vodka shot: “So two and two makes eight.”

Girl: “Are you sure?”

Vodka shot: “Yep”

Girl: “It’s just that I seem to recall...”

Vodka shot: “Look, do you want me to do your adding up for you or not?”

Girl: “Er...”

Vodka shot: “Listen love, I don’t have to do this you know? I could be getting on with making you sick.”

Girl: “I’m sorry, so it’s eight then?”

Vodka shot: “Eight it is, you don’t want to let him get away with it. I’d have a fight if I was you. Would you like me to look after your emotions and tear ducts?”

Girl “Do you mind?”

Vodka shot: “It’s all part of the service! That’s what you are paying £1.50 for!”

Finally, our young lad had enough, he flopped his hands one last time, let out an almighty sigh and said those words we have all said at some point in a relationship:

“I give up!”

He turned and wobbled off back to whence he had come.

Poor drunken girl let out a little whine, not Lambrini, the plaintive kind that comes from confusion and desperation.

She did that Hollywood thing of putting the back of her hand against her forehead and looked up and down the road for answers (or maybe a hackney cab) and then flopped against a lamp-post.

She hugged the lamp-post for a moment and had a little cry, the lamp-post did that British thing of pretending not to notice. Had it possessed hands I’m guessing it would have almost patted her back and then thought better of it and just stood there staring into the distance while its shoulder got wet (if lamp-posts had shoulders).

The girl realised how daft she looked and pushed herself away from the lamp-post and gave it a little slap. She took a few paces, then turned to look down the road in the direction her friend had gone (the lad, not the lamp-post) and gave another plaintive little whimper.

Young lad was nowhere to be seen. He’d headed off towards the bombed-out church, no doubt muttering to himself about how unfair life was and whether he should get a burger or a kebab.

Drunken girl stood forlornly, rested her hand on the lamp-post again and then wobbled off in the opposite direction to her erstwhile boyfriend.

As she weaved her way she cast the odd glance over her shoulder and it struck me that she actually just wanted a hug. Not from the lamp-post but from her drunken lad.

She stopped a couple of times, just her and her reflection in empty shop windows, both watching to see if he would come. And he didn’t. She looked at herself in the window a couple of times, but a hug wasn’t forthcoming from that direction either.

Eventually, she turned a final time and off she went, homeward bound to a wet pillow and a hangover.

I shook my head (I do a lot of that) and returned to the crossword as peace returned. I’m a firm believer that “quick crossword” is actually short for “quicksand crossword” because I usually get stuck and end up needing help. So, as I chewed my pen and settled into deep short-sighted concentration, I got quite a fright as young drunken lad jogged past my window.

Drunken girl was long gone, I’d managed two answers so at least 10 minutes had passed, but he jogged on in what appeared to be a lost cause of catching her.

He didn’t have his burger, his arms were empty.

I hope he caught her up and filled them.

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25 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

GordoJune 11th 2010.

Blimey; Prof, you are quite profligate with the language an' all aren't you?

AnonymousJune 11th 2010.

It is funny how a lot of booze can wreak havoc on our relationships. I think the mistake people make is taking things easy in courtship. Take a first date out and get absolutely hammered to see their true colours before even thinking of proceeding to "second base".

redfoxJune 11th 2010.

Lets have more rearview mirror anecdotes.... reflection the antidote to austerity . . .

DigJune 11th 2010.

No need to apologise Tricky. It's nice that you miss me. I've missed you too. Lovely to see you again too. Do you want to meet in Town later to get drunk then have an argument by a taxi rank? We can write our own story. x

CroxtethPrincessJune 11th 2010.

'the lamp-post did that British thing of pretending not to notice.'..........Classic!!!

AnonymousJune 11th 2010.

Sometimes, all you want is a hug. I wish more men understood that.

Recovering alcoholicJune 11th 2010.

I agree with anonymous

DigJune 11th 2010.

What did George Formby have to do with the young couples argument again?

AnonymousJune 11th 2010.

Very nice writing indeed.

Mark Garner, The PublisherJune 11th 2010.

This is a charming, delightful piece. Well done.

Tricky WooJune 11th 2010.

Sorry Dig. Lovely to see you again!

Jaded old hackJune 11th 2010.

You got yourself a natural there. Lovely piece of writing

Crystal tipJune 11th 2010.

Nice work Tony.

DigJune 11th 2010.

I believe you and the thought is rather appealing.

FrankJune 11th 2010.

Good stuff.

Tricky WooJune 11th 2010.

Dig! You are back! Fantastic, I really missed your inane rambling! xx

DigJune 11th 2010.

I was being sarcastic Gordo. I totally agree, lovely piece. An insider tells me the story is about a night out Mr & Mrs. Grill had together. Tricky Woo I haven't been away. It's just that the last few weeks there has been a lack of opportunity to ramble inanely online so I've been doing it in person more.

Profligger ChucklebuttyJune 11th 2010.

Certainly not Mr Gordo, I give all my comments for free, I don't make any proflitts on this.

Tricky WooJune 11th 2010.

Dig, I would eat you alive, believe me.

JimmyJune 11th 2010.

brilliant column, more please!

Evil EddJune 11th 2010.

Nice piece. Simple story, simple language, all the more moving for it.

BillJune 11th 2010.

This made me smile. Well done. Can't wait for more.

Professor ChucklebuttyJune 11th 2010.

Oy Gordo! I have just looked up prophylactic in the dictionary. What are you trying to say, spit it out?

BendyGirlJune 11th 2010.

Excellent piece Tony! Remember you promised me 5% for getting you started on this lark ;)

GordoJune 11th 2010.

Dig, Dig, Dig, where is your heart man?

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