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Today we are continuing our great serial story, "Minicab To Utopia", set in the London of the 1990s, the San Francisco of the 1890s and Egypt at the time of the Pyramids, though if we get a lucrative film offer we would be prepared to set it all somewhere much cheaper, such as modern Shepherds Bush . . .


Story so far. Minicab tycoon Adios Muchacho, who controls fleets of taxis as far afield as Manchester, Bristol and Santiago de Compostela, is married to society beauty Lady Gwendolen Carter. Attracted by his wealth but repulsed by his Mediterranean-style family background, Gwen has given him two children and kept three for herself. Adios devotes most of his day to keeping control of his sprawling minicab empire, and, feeling neglected, Lady Gwen is determined to start an affair with a handsome, charming unemployed actor.

As, however, she does not know any handsome, unemployed actors, with or without charm, she turns for help to her best friend, Angela Bunting, and meets her for lunch at the trendy Bistro Rococo, just off Beauchamp Place. There she toys with a salad made for her by the proprietor, trendy Theo Garcia, from watercress, kumqats and rocket. When she compliments him on the tasty mix, he says: "Well, it's only rocket science . . ." a joke he has developed himself and which nobody has ever laughed at.

Once Theo Garcia is out of the way, Gwen asks Angie what is the best way to go about having an affair, but Angie advises her strictly against it.

"Men do not feel threatened by wives' affairs any more," she says. "What really makes men feel threatened is when their wives think of business schemes which are equally as successful as their own. Having a fling with a callow actor is nothing. Starting your own company and making a fortune is what wives do these days to attract their husband's attention."

Gwen is attracted by the idea, but cannot think of any business project worthy of her attention, or simple enough for her skimpy talents. However, just as Theo Gracia brings them their coffee, they are joined by one of Angela's friends, a hunky TV producer called Rob Lancet. He is very excited, because one of his programmes is going out the very next night. He has made a film for Channel 4 about what sportsmen get up to on the long trips to their next venue - revealing shots of Manchester United flying out to Athens, top tennis players swanning off to Melbourne etc - and giving the public a glimpse of the glamour of big time sport.

"Actually," he says, "there's no glamour at all. It's all exceedingly tedious. That's because top sportsmen are fairly tedious people. But if I made a film saying how tedious it all was, nobody would watch it, so I have to lie about it all. That's modern TV for you. Meanwhile, I'm meant to be organising a party where we can all watch it as it goes out, but I've left it all a bit late. God - if only there was someone you could turn to who organised TV parties for people ...! "

Bingo! There is Gwen's business idea. And sure enough, a year later she has 'Launch Lunch' up and running, a whizz-kid firm, which takes care of all those excited people who have new programmes going out and want to celebrate it with friends before the bad reviews are printed. After all, as she tells Adios, there's a new programme going out every night and they all need her for the party. However, Adios is, as usual, preoccupied with his own problems and hardly seems to notice. It briefly occurs to Gwen that maybe Adios is having an affair but she dismisses the idea. I mean, just look at him!

Then Rob Lancet reappears in her life when he hires her to arrange a party for his new documentary, an exposé of international drug and gun running. It is not till she has got everyone full of canapes, and served all the drinks, and settled down to watch the programme with the other guests that she realises the documentary is about her husband, Adios Muchacho. Apparently he has been using his minicab empire to run drugs and guns everywhere. (Rob Lancet, of course, has no idea that Lady Gwen Carter has any connection with the monarch of the minicabs… ) Gwen suddenly sees her life caving in round her.

Meanwhile, back in Ancient Egypt . . .

I'm really sorry. I don't have room for all the synopsis, let alone any of our new instalment. Some other time, I hope.

The Independent Mon Dec 15 03