Richard Davenport-Hines

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Faber & Faber 202pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Taxi drivers only want to talk to me about footballers – David Beckham if I am lucky, Nobby Stiles if I am not. For Jan Morris, taxi conversations are evidently exotic, comic and football-free. ‘Are you a man or a woman?’, a Fijian taxi driver asked her as they drove from an airport. ‘I am a respectable, rich, middle-aged English widow,’ she replied. ‘Good,’ he said, as he put his hand on her knee, ‘that’s just what I want.’ A Beirut cab driver chatters away like the Fonz in American prime time’s Happy Days: ‘Say, what you say we stop for a sundae?’, ‘How d’ya feel like a Coke, baby?’, ‘Dig those crazy guys!’. These are just two episodes from a book peppered with mild jolts, gentle quirks and agreeable cultural disjunctions. 

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