Here I am with a radio producer. We’re having something to eat before we go to our accommodation in preparation for creating an award-winning radio programme. It might not win awards, of course, but I always reckon that if I put the words “award-winning” before every programme I make, every book I write and every column I create, I’ll win something someday.
My producer likes cheesecake and she’s noticed that the ‘Cheesecake of the Day’ (yes, it was that kind of place) is Pistachio and Marzipan and she’s very keen to try it. She enjoys it, despite the fact that, in the currently fashionable way, they serve it in a jam jar. She keeps telling me how good the cheesecake is and urging me to try to some but I’m full of pie and chips. The chips, by the way, were served in a miniature bucket.
“Perhaps you could slow down a bit?,” my producer says. He does, a little. “I blame the cheesecake,” she says, as we negotiate a 90-degree bend.
We leave the restaurant and go to a taxi rank. We’re staying in a house at the edge of the middle of nowhere and our helpful notes say that the postcode ‘will get us to the general area’ but then we have to follow a complex set of instructions in tiny print.
We set off in the taxi and the driver notes the postcode in his satnav; ominously, after about half a mile, the satnav breaks down and goes blank and has to be rebooted, which could be seen as an omen. Now, the place we’re staying at, although unfamiliar to us all, is not too far from a town I’ve visited many times so I know that when the taxi plunges into a dark and narrow lane that we’re going the wrong way. I tell the taxi driver this but he isn’t convinced; “The SatNav’s taking us a quicker way,” he says, “as the crow flies”. I demur to his local knowledge.
He hurtles round the narrow lanes in the growing darkness. Doomy late-night ambient music plays on his radio. The lanes are becoming narrower and twistier and grass is growing up the middle of them. I prefer white lines up the middle of my roads.
My producer tells me that she feels sick. The taxi driver helpfully winds the window down and evening air slaps our faces. “Perhaps you could slow down a bit?,” my producer says. He does, a little. “I blame the cheesecake,” she says, as we negotiate a 90-degree bend. He turns the radio off as though that might help the sickness. We are driving on a road as narrow as the seam on a black stocking and I feel like I’m in a horror film.
Out of the darkness, three massive horses appear, eyes wild and shining. Now I know I’m in a horror film. The taxi screeches to a halt and the horses crowd around the car, as though they are clamouring to get in. ‘I am frightened’ the taxi driver says, simply, and begins to reverse down the thin track as fast as he zoomed along it. The horses follow us. My producer, through her shuddering nausea, tells him to turn his lights off and in the darkness the horses jostle past us like we are a small boat and they are waves.
For a moment there is silence, and darkness.
Then we trundle towards our destination. The moral of the story? Don’t eat cheesecake out of a jar.