Some years ago, Thursday night was Ladies Night at Abingdon's solitary night club, in the centre of town. Significant numbers of squaddies would come into the town centre and a good income could be earned from the short journeys backwards and forwards to The Camp, at about £7 a time.
We would wait around on the taxi rank after the pubs had closed, for the exodus of people from the club at 2 am or 3 am. One such night, a driver had bought a kebab and was munching on it gleefully, in front of another colleague, unaware he was fasting for Ramadan. So that year, I also fasted, in empathy with my Muslim colleague and to see if I could actually manage to do it.
Fasting during daylight hours is a whole lot easier to do when you work nights and are asleep during the day. As I later learned, it meant no water and no food during the day. The next year, I successfully attempted it again for Ramadan and for the following season of Lent.
Lenten observances are symbolic of Jesus' own temptations and journey into the desert, but are not really prescribed, rather a matter of tradition, custom and practice. Chief among them are acts of sacrifice, repentance and alms giving.
In a typical year, if I am fortunate, I might collect about £800 of loose change in my taxi, over and above what is required to maintain a float. It is largely from those who scrabble around at the end of a night out to pay their taxi fare, after having spent the notes reserved for the taxi ride home for one last drink – one for the road, as it were.
These last few seasons of Lent, I have collected all my loose change and tips and donated them to charity – alms giving. It is not really something which I can afford this year, but it has been done nonetheless. Now the long period of Lent is nearly over, Easter with its two bank holidays is almost upon us and I have not missed beer, nor any of the other things I have given up for Lent much at all.
A good friend from a land far, far away wrote a Lenten quiz on Twitter, the other night. One of the questions was about the exact moment of Easter. We established it was from the first Alleluia in the first mass of Easter, Some churches celebrate this on the night before, some at dawn on Easter Day, some later still.
We discussed afterwards whether there needs to be an exact moment at all. Our Christian traditions, customs and practices may seem archaic, quaint even at times, especially the Anglican ones. But I believe there does need to be just such a moment, it can help make it as real for us as for the first women who witnessed the resurrection and realised he is risen.
Alleluia! Happy Easter!
As published in the Abingdon Herald 12 April 2017