I used to drive a mini cab of a night for a living, assuming, of course, you can could it a living. Long nights and late night fights with the drunk and desperate, the drugged and itinerate peppered the hours of boredom spent wandering the streets of Liverpool waiting for a fare.
Only thing I got out of it was a pot belly and a book, both of which are proving hard to shift.
It wasn't always bleak though, you would sometimes meet people who would inspire and delight you with their stories and jokes. You might get to watch a real life drama unfold on your back seat as someone's life fell around them, or you might see the seedling of first love.
Who else gets to witness the first time a boy takes a girls hand?
Not all the drama was a delight, sometimes you would see people clinging to society, barely holding on and tying themselves to the mast of life with frayed nerves, praying the knots would hold through the storm.
And then they would be gone, and you never would find out if they did.
It was last winter, one of the worst nights of the year, but not the worst. Frost had iced the cars parked on the tiny terraced street and a fluffed up cat, wishing it had worn shoes, was sitting under a nearby car watching me and hating me with its eyes because I was so warm in my Ford Focus, while it was so cold under somebody else's.
I looked at the house from where my fare was destined to appear, it was so small the front door seemed too big for it, and the red industrial Victorian bricks had long lost half their mortar as they sagged like a teenagers jeans over the old sash windows that were remaining obstinately in place, one hundred years after they had first been cleaned.
Finally the front door opened and out of it, like Jerry out the mouse hole came an old lady. She pulled the door shut, then shoved it open and gave another yank with such force I half expected the front of the house to fall down, leaving her standing like Buster Keaton with a door knob in her hand.
She locked it once, twice, three times, with more keys than Florida before walking towards me, all overcoat, paraded boots and Russian army hat, a Bootle babushka.
I felt the cold air get into the car with her, as she struggled to fold herself in the middle under all the layers into the back seat,
"Jesus Christ lad it's hot in 'ere!" She exclaimed.
"It was! Hurry up and shut the doo.!" I replied, reminding myself to get a shave, lest the whole of Liverpool started to think Jesus drove a taxi on his nights off.
"'Ang on, I can't get me leg in."
I looked over my shoulder and watched as she twisted and turned dragging a leg that was stiffer than Jimmy Savile over the threshold and into the foot-well. I released my seat belt and opened my door to get out to help, feeling the cold on my side, so sharp I felt like the end fishfinger in a half eaten box.
"Can you manage?" I asked, suddenly reluctant to get out.
"I'll get it," grunt groan, shuffle, pull, "there! I'm in!"
My door and her door shut thankfully and my heater set about restoring the balance.
"Where are we going love?"
"Only down the road lad."
"You doing a paper round?"
She laughed and gave me the address.
"I'm going to our Kat'leens."
"Me sister, she only lives up the road."
"At this time of night? Is she okay?"
"Aah no lad, I've got no gas, bleedin' 'ouse is freezin'."
"Do you want the garage love? We can get gas there if you want?"
"I've got no bleedin' money lad!"
I looked in the mirror.
"Our Kat'leen had her pension, she's got gas and she'll pay yer. It's too bleedin' cold to sleep in mine. Next week she can come to mine if it's not warmed up a bit."
We pulled up in a terraced street that didn't look much different than the first or the last. Halfway down the road "Our Kat'leen" "coo'eed" with a wave of the arm and I pulled into the kerb.
"How much love?" Kat'leen asked through my now open window, breath ghosting out if her mouth.
"It's all right love; I'm on me way home." I lied.
"No love, how much?"
"Honestly it's okay." I lied again.
"Give him three pound Kat'leen!" Behind me, stiff leg shouted, a half in and half out, arthritic okey cokey going on.
She passed me three pounds I passed back a pound, she was paying for their pride and who was I not to take it?
I left them wobbling up the icy path and sliding down the slippery slope and hoped they had enough energy to last the night.
They didn't care about inflation, they didn't care about shareholders, they didn't care about infrastructure and they didn't care about six monthly profit forecasts.
To them a comparison site is the spot in front of the mirror in the charity shop where they try on another winter coat.
They pay the most and use the least, eking the heat and squeezing the electricity till it squeaks.
They use the emergency meter so much it becomes the norm and the key and card are worn smooth by the three pounds and five pounds they have to keep putting on it.
And the worst thing? The worst thing is they aren't alone. The worst thing is one company can make half a billion pounds a year, but this country can't afford to let its elderly sleep in free warmth.
And that is chilling.
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