At the bottom of the slowly rolling garden of The Village Pub, lies the River Cherwell - Oxford's lesser known and more beautiful river. Sat at a table next to the river on Friday after work, a man dressed in running gear shouted at me from a field of cows on the other side "Is there a footbridge here?"
"No, mate" I shouted back, explaining that there never has been a footbridge, but there used to be a line ferry until about 1972 – a cable strung across the river, attached to a punt, which you stood in and pulled yourself across. The public footpath continues to this day as a legal right of way through the field and the pub garden, either side of the river. But the ferry has fallen out of use, because of the building of the nearby Marston Ferry Road, to where I directed him, so he could cross. It was an interesting random encounter with a kindred spirit, following a map and expecting something to be there, which was not.
The Village Pub is like a microcosm of Oxford itself, concurrently ordinary and extraordinary. When the sun shines, every person and their dogs go there, a melange of proper characters, like the man shouting at his wet dog emerging from the Cherwell "don't shake yourself by those people, shake yourself in your own space!" Friday was glorious, but after twenty-four hours out of my taxi, it was back to work.
My first job on Saturday night had been prebooked, someone I had known online for a while, but had never actually met in the real world. As a seven years user of social media, I am yet to be disappointed in a ‘TweetUp’, as they are somewhat awkwardly termed.
This passenger was vivacious and charmed me with intelligent and eloquacious conversation, but by the time I had dropped them off and returned to Abingdon town centre, things slowly deteriorated, as only Saturday night life in small town provincial England can.
We had discussed earlier how it is only possible to take so much of the behaviour which results from customers having consumed too much alcohol, late at night and not knowing when to stop. Eight years' experience of driving taxis at night in Oxfordshire tells me that 0100 to 0500 is the most critical time and instinct told me to go home at 0123, after a fare turned up which was going far enough north, homeward bound.
So, it is back to the grindstone, with only one more week of school runs left, before the long hiatus of the summer holidays, where business can drop by as much as forty per cent. Already, one Abingdon shop has ‘back to school’ promotions in its window, before the holidays have even begun. While this is is clearly too soon, I also cannot afford to wait for the school holidays to be over. Roll on September.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 19 July 2017
- Oxfordshire County Council, Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way for Oxfordshire, Sheet SP 50 NW (PDF), Footpaths 320/47, 294/4, Relevant Date: 21 February 2006, as consulted 18 July 2017