News came a few weeks before Easter that the parish priest in the small village where I live on the outskirts of Oxford is to retire this summer, after 25 years service. Then a discussion on Twitter revealed that there is another priest in Oxford, with 49 years service in the same parish.
Such dedication to the service of others and longevity in one job is certainly unusual these days, especially in this most temporal, transitory and illusory of cities. Although, there were only five incumbents in the parish during the whole of the twentieth century, including the one shortly to retire. Perhaps there is something intangible about Oxford, which encourages some people with security of tenure to stay for long periods of time.
In the taxi driving business, however, we live from day to day and from one job to the next. Steadily decreasing levels of cash income fluctuate with the ebb and flow of people, around such periods of time as the monthly pay cycle, on the last weekend of the month and decline by as much as sixty per cent, by the following weekend. It is a situation not in any way helped by the licensing authority.
Unlike in the City, numbers of taxi licences issued in the Vale are not capped. Neither does the abrogation of the night time taxi service to Hackney Carriage drivers who work legally in Oxford as private hire in the middle of the week and then work the taxi rank in Abingdon at the weekends.
These days, taxi driving in semi rural Oxfordshire, the money seems to be in weekday school runs and not in the night time economy, which in Abingdon, has been steadily declining, as witnessed by the rate of pub closures at about one per year, during the years I have been driving various incarnations of taxis there.
It would be very easy to carry on doing the same thing, year after year, in a sort of vain hope that things would one day work out and income levels might rise to what they were before the recession.
But my experience in the recession has been that it has been an constant process of moving from one arrangement to another, in order to eke a living, pushing the working times out a little further:
- a Baptist minister, on her way to open up church at 7.30 in the morning, after me having finished work at 0300
- a group of ladies on their way to a Billy Ocean gig at the O2 on Cowley Road, two hours after work had more or less finished for the day
- a Hungarian customer, at 0400 in the morning, to Gloucester Green, to catch the bus to Luton airport, for the cheap fights to Budapest
All of these earn small amounts of money and possibly even not significant to the passengers themselves, but very significant to me, in terms of the continued struggle to make a living on the highways and byways of Oxfordshire.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday 22 June 2016