One of the first books I remember reading was Ladybird’s Tootles the Taxi (an early Dostoyevsky work, I think). 

The book included other vehicular stories, aside from Tootles, who, stated in rhyme, why he wasn’t going south of the river after 8.00 pm.  I was a fan of Mickey the Mail Van (he doesn’t exist anymore as he’s been replaced by delivery drivers who send you a text saying you’re seventh in the queue, although the sixth is in Truro, so don’t hold your breath) as we shared the same name and Willie the Water Cart as his name (when you’re four) was comedic (although that never quite worked with Willie Whitelaw).

My love of this book was a consequence of having gone in a taxi, aged two, having had my fingers caught in a Tooting toy shop door jamb.  I cried (obviously) but shut up the moment I was in the cab.  Luckily my fingers were saved by a janitor with a couple of old plasters and a needlework kit working at the now defunct Balham hospital, St James’ – you wouldn’t have trusted any of the doctors there. 

In later life I once asked a cab driver if their taxi was called Tootles.  I never asked a second time, although I was told, for the best part of an hour, how Mrs. Thatcher would have handled COVID.

My next book was Emile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, which was a shame, as it put me off boating for life.

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