After church on Sunday morning, the leaves from the avenue of mature trees which line the approach road were falling, as was the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, a sure indication that Autumn has arrived.
Of all the seasonal and cyclical changes which take place during the course of the year, there is none more eagerly awaited for the Oxfordshire small town taxi driver than that which happens at the end of the school summer holidays.
Those of us who work full-time at taxi driving are pretty much dependent on the regularity of contract work, for our livelihood. During the summer, there is a drop in income by anywhere between forty to sixty per cent. It results in more and more drivers queuing for long periods of time – forty minutes to one hour from the back of the queue to the front - to get on to a five-car taxi rank, with all the attendant difficulties this brings.
The later the night wears on, the more potential customers come to the rank and try to negotiate the fare in advance. There is an ever-increasing amount of anecdotal evidence from these customers, studiously recorded in my journal afterwards, that they are asked for far too much money.
Weekend night taxi trade continues to be dominated by those who have no interest in serving the community from which they are making their money, but in making a few quick pounds in cash. They turn up for a couple of hours around 2300, but have disappeared again by 0100, or even earlier.
During the Summer, there is no choice other than to stay later, to make up the amount of income which is required to maintain living expenses, with consequent risks to personal safety, from picking up passengers, who arrive in the taxi even more drunk as the night wears on and especially between the danger hours of 0100 and 0600.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, three middle-aged men came to my taxi, wanting to go to Uffington, past Wantage, to a camp site on the downs at the highest point in Oxfordshire, near the boundary with Berkshire. They were angry at having been let down by someone who was supposed to have given them a lift and spent the entire journey of forty minutes shouting and arguing with each other using a variety of swear words in more than one language.
To my great surprise and relief, at the destination, on an unlit road near Dragon Hill, the man in the front paid the fare, while his companions ran from the car, vaulting a farm gate, continuing to argue. These kinds of jobs do cause great concern whilst driving, due to the demeanour of those who have consumed too much alcohol.
The extra days' holiday at the beginning of the first week of September are irritating, disrupting as they do onset of a full week’s earning potential. Return to school cannot come soon enough for me.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday 06 September 2017