Three times in the last three months I have been requested to provide quotes for an all-day hire of my taxi. These jobs are relatively rare, occurring perhaps only once or twice a year and are quite difficult to price up.
£365 each way, plus waiting time, seems like an unreasonable amount for an all-day hire to Yorkshire and back, especially coming from a town like Abingdon, where there are far too many taxi licences issued and business is consequently competitive.
Whether the journey is long or short, time spent in a taxi - which is my personal space as well as my commercial vehicle – can be time well spent, for what it elucidates about the passenger’s character and values, in shared conversation. So it was on this occasion, where after a long journey, I found myself sat at a funeral service in a municipal crematorium in the north of England, crying for the loss of a person I did not know in this world. “Are you alright, love?” asked one of the other mourners, an act of kindness by a stranger.
The lines "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee" by the seventeenth century Church of England priest John Donne are from a work of prose, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes, published in 1624 and they are still as pertinent today, as when they were first written.
In the same month, another all day hire was much closer to home. A long term customer’s father had recently relocated to the area and wanted an all day tour of Oxford, with a friend. It is something I have undertaken many times, for visiting relatives, colleagues, friends and associates. The streets lined with Cotswold stone and paved with cobbles are very familiar to me, perhaps even too familiar. As the Glen Campbell song goes “I’ve been walking these streets so long.”
The preparatory work takes longer than the actual tour itself, though the tour follows an established pattern: drive around the outskirts of the eastern side of the city, followed by a walk around the city centre. We visit the oldest building in Oxford and we paused awhile at the stone cross in the middle of Broad Street, which marks the site of the burning of the Oxford martyrs in 1555 – and a subsequent burning in 1556.
After lunch, a visit to Christ Church, a popular choice with visitors, because of its use as a film location. In the Great Hall, used as a model for Hogwarts, I uttered the words “look, there are only two portraits of women in this entire room”.
It was a day well spent walking around a city I have known only too well for years, but through the eyes and ears of a visitor who had never been there before. And so the idea for a new income stream, to capitalise on a lifetime of accumulated knowledge, was generated.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 05 December 2018
The University of Adelaide, eBooks web edition, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions and seuerall steps in my Sicknes, By Iohn Donne, Deane of S. Pauls, London. Printed by A. M. for Thomas Iones. 1624, 17 December 2014, as retrieved 04 December 2018