Some years ago, what used to be called Southern Bypass Extension, on the Oxford ring road was renamed Southern Bypass. Although the Oxford ring road is an actual ring road which you can follow all the way around more or less in a circle, it wasn't built that way. It was built in a series of stages and only later came the realisation of the bright idea of linking them up, hence Eastern Bypass Extension and Southern Bypass Extension.
The original name is more descriptive of the piece of dual carriageway which runs between the Hinksey Hill and Kennington roundabouts. This I learned thanks to a Twitter correspondent, later to become a good friend in the real world, who had kindly informed me of my inaccurate tweet.
A few weeks ago, I filed a traffic report, with the location information “right by the old Friar Bacon pub on the A40” then I thought I had better check when it ceased to be a pub and that was circa 1994, more than twenty years ago and certainly of no use to anyone arriving in the locality after that date. Like a number of old Oxford pubs, the site is now occupied by a block of flats, with a piece of public art attached to the side of it.
Much more recently, a friend visiting from a land far, far away, who I had previously known only on Twitter, booked a taxi to go to Oxford rail station. As we journeyed through the city, from east to west, and along the taxis and buses only access road through the Westgate roadworks I found myself giving an impromptu guided tour of what used to be there, before the building site. “Over there, I went to primary school and opposite it was a square of town houses. It’s all gone now, working class people’s homes replaced by a shiny new shopping centre in 1972 and again now - twice in my lifetime.”
Here in Abingdon, there used to be a butcher's shop called Ali's, situated immediately adjacent to the Ock Street taxi rank. Its name lived on for some years, as a reference point for the controller on the taxi radio, as did that of Braggs cycle shop on the High Street, location of the so-called ‘night rank’.
Even that has ceased to be a taxi rank now, though some drivers still cling tenaciously to it, in the early hours of the night, ranking up half on the pavement and half on the road. Presumably they do this because they are reluctant to join the ever increasing queue for Abingdon’s only functional night rank, starting outside Ali’s old shop and stretching all the way back to the former Post Office.
These old Abingdon businesses have long since gone. So too have radios in our taxis, by which we used to be able to chat with each other during shift, to be replaced by a soulless digital despatching system.
Not all change is for the best.
As published in the Abingdon Herald 29 March 2017