Once again this Autumn, the first two decorated Christmas trees appeared in Abingdon shop windows before Remembrance Sunday.
Although as a self-employed sole trader I appreciate the commercial reasons, it is a bit early for my taste, to extend the outward signs of the manifestation and celebration of Christmas for two whole months before the actual date - or even three months, from the first appearance of Christmas goods in Abingdon shops.
I had taken my first taxi booking for New Year's Eve on 23 October and the following week for Christmas Day. Sensibly, these customers know that it is a time when taxis get booked up well in advance and it is almost impossible to book on the day, without a long wait.
Each year, new taxi drivers think it is marvellous that it is so busy and that there is so much money to be made from the Christmas and New Year's Eve holiday period. It is partly because fares start at £6.20 for the first mile and then 34 pence for every 176 yards after that. But although it is busy on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day, in the days and subsequent weekend nights that follow, it is quiet to the point of tedium. You might be lucky if one customer arrives every hour. And trade does not start to pick up again until March.
Those of us who work at it full time are trying to eke a living out of the largest town in Vale of White Horse district, with its population of 33,000 people, whereas Abingdon's close neighbour Didcot has a population of only 25,000. With its cinema, extended shopping centre, new ASDA, technology college and other facilities, Didcot is expanding, even though much of the hinterland of Didcot is actually in the Vale. There is the physical reality that Abingdon is left behind.
Abingdon is a place which has had several empty units in its 1960s precinct, since it was refurbished, some years ago. But shining like a light in the darkness, there are community based initiatives in the town centre, in the lead up to Christmas.
A very exciting thing is happening in the Precinct, where a small team of independent craftspeople have set up a pop up shop in one of these empty units. Previously selling online, you can now see in the real world their quirky and individually designed items: jewellery, fascinators, tumblestones and dog bandanas, amongst other things. These people have brought beauty to the bleakness of Abingdon town centre.
Online, I don't usually start Christmas promotions until well into November, although I have already removed the red plastic poppy which is affixed to the front of my taxi for ten days. Some years, I forget to put it up, but I do always mark Remembrance Sunday and I do always celebrate Christmas. As one of my favourite songs by Pete Seeger – itself quoting my favourite Old Testament writer – says "To everything there is a season".
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 15 November 2017
Vale of White Horse District Council, Maximum fares for hackney carriages from 20 January 2014 (PDF, 78 Kb), as retrieved 02 May 2017
South Oxfordshire District Council, Census 2011 Summary South Oxfordshire Including Didcot, Henley, Thame and Wallingford, Population by parish 2001 and 2011, (PDF, 803 Kb), 16 July 2014, as retrieved 14 November 2017
Oxford City Council, Abingdon profile - 2011 Census, (PDF, 453 Kb), as retrieved 14 November 2017