Living on a prayer

Probably the second best thing about earning a living plying for hire on the roads of Oxfordshire is its unpredictability. But it is also one of its greatest irritations, as it is rarely possible to know with any degree of certainty where the next £20 is coming from. It is living by faith.   

And micro management of money, from one week to the next and often also from one day, to the next. "You should never be completely broke, as a taxi driver," I told myself, when on a Saturday night in the middle of winter, I was first launched with no training and no knowledge test - because it didn't exist back in those days - on the glorious randomness of the British public as a taxi driver.  

Still telling myself the same thing now, I am less confident that it provides a route to make any kind of progress at all with what I want to achieve with the rest of my life. Rather, taxi driving is a subsistence living. But the dreams, hopes and aspirations are still alive, even with my advancing years.  

In this unpredictable existence, there are no set times for breaks – though half the time on shift is spent waiting.  There is an attempt not to undertake unnecessary mileage, eat when you can and sometimes, when there is a busy day, not eating for hours, because there is an imperative to make money, when the work is there.  

Friday was a rare busy day, which saw me travelling over an extensive area of southern Oxfordshire twice to Witney, to Wantage and from there to Didcot, as well as the usual plethora of routine journeys to and from the doctor, the dentist and the grocery stores in and around Abingdon.  

Stopping in Didcot, I found myself outside an unremarkable looking church on a large corner plot in the backstreets.  In Oxford Diocese, there are 815 parish churches - more than any other diocese in all of England and for someone like me, who is on the road all day, when they are open they do offer an opportunity to "come away to the quiet".  

Never having found this church open before and showing no signs of life from the outside, I tried the huge door and went on in. After all these years of church going, I ought not to be surprised at an encounter with God.  

But there it was, in a sacred space which is only forty years old, they did not forget to show hospitality to strangers.  In the building itself and in the simple act of enquiry from a parishioner which took place seven minutes in, expressed in the most English manner "I've just come in to see if you're alright."   

I was alright, but no sooner had I knelt down to pray, than my phone vibrated and I was off on the road again, after the last 'Amen'.

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 15 February 2017

  1. Church of England, Diocese of Oxford, Governance, retrieved 14 February 2017
  2. Hebrews 13:2