It’s time to head home from Mexico. Central Belt Shuffler’s taxi arrives promptly, and the driver helps my heavy rucksack into the boot. Celeste the dog, my new best friend, lies down by the passenger door to say goodbye.
On the route to the airport, we discuss (in broken Spanish) girls who share their names with car brands, Scottish independence (rather confused by the driver asking how far Scotland is from England. One centimetre? Several hundred kilometres?), retirement ages and pensions, benefits and medical provision, private and free beaches on the Oaxaca coast line. He asks me whether I like Mexican music, what music I listen to at home.
The car is slowed by numerous topes (sleeping policemen) and a truck belching fumes.
As we turn a bend, an iguana sits in the road in front of us. It lopes off to the scrub on the side before we reach it.
Several hours, thousands of kilometres, and a huge drop in temperature later, the taxi line attendant lifts my bag into the car. ‘New car?’ he asks the driver. ‘Aye. First fare,’ the driver replies.
He drives very slowly over the speed bumps. ‘I need to go slowly over these. It’s catching on the bottom.’ The car scrapes.
‘Did I hear that right? I’m your first fare in this cab? There were speed bumps everywhere in Mexico,’ I contribute.
‘Aye. You don’t want to know what happened to the last one.’
‘You can’t say that. Now I do!’
‘Well, as you were in Mexico you probably won’t have seen this on the news. My last one caught on fire, right outside the airport. On 14 February.’
‘That’s quite a Valentine’s Day gift.’ We talk about the fire, insurance, the new cab, working into your 70s as a taxi driver, long-haul flights and holiday destinations. The motorway is running slowly, coming to a halt. We leave the motorway, and drive through parts of Renfrew. The sky is grey, the houses, hugging the side of the motorway, look poor. The car keeps scraping on high speed bumps. He needs to get the casing fixed.
He thinks he’s made the wrong decision to leave the motorway. We’re slowed by a cyclist, and overtake giving him wide space. The traffic comes to a halt. The cyclist catches up with us.
As we wait at the junction to go onto the Byres Road, he tells me that he was record-shopping there recently. He’s bought a new turntable, and is building up his collection again after selling his old vinyl, and player, four years ago. His collection would have doubled now in price. Original Neil Young vinyl is particularly pricey.
We arrive home, and he lifts my bag out. I go inside, pleased to be home, but wishing my cat (who is still with her Lake District minders) were there to greet me.