July and August are traditionally booked full of weddings and holidays. This year was no exception, with four journeys during this week to Gatwick and Heathrow, one to cruise terminals at Southampton and a wedding in Stratford-upon-Avon on the order book.
These are invariably heartwarming occasions, full of promise for a hopeful future. And they come at a time of the year, during the school holidays when there is no school run work and the numbers of people coming to the taxi rank in Abingdon are at the lowest point of the year.
If the timings are fortuitous, it can be an opportunity to undertake routine maintenance, which is made all the more frequent due being on the road as much as four or five times more than the average annual mileage for a private car. Tyres will need replacing every six months or so and at least two to three services per year. So it was when I found myself last week having some work done on my taxi at a garage in Northamptonshire. Due being sent “the wrong parts,” they had kept my taxi for three days, instead of the scheduled one and I was back in Oxfordshire on the taxi rank in the early evening of the third day, in a hopeless attempt to make up some of the lost income.
On three successive evenings, the waiting time from the back of the queue, not even on the taxi rank itself, to when the first customer arrived, was between one hour and more than three hours. Even with books, papers, writing and devices, it is mind numbingly tedious. It takes a special degree of fortitude to eke a living out of such circumstances.
But it is alleviated by the opportunity to take time out in church - though always with the phone on silent, awaiting the next summons to work. Chatting about business with a kindly and wise retired priest after lunchtime Mass in Abingdon this week, she asked me about how much time I was able to take resting. “Not much,” I admitted, “but I do get a real sense of peace and contentment from working in church on Sunday”, where I have recently been authorised to serve communion wine.
“That’s where your heart really is, isn’t it?” she asked and I had to admit that it is. After a date this year, somebody told me they didn’t want to see me any more, because I spent too much time in church. Yet, I feel I do not spend enough time there.
Taxi driving in a small provincial town like Abingdon is cyclical and seasonal. It is also random and because of that, it can be glorious. The people on occasion both break it and make it what it is. They are the best and the worst aspects of it.
And whilst my heart might indeed be elsewhere, I do still try my best.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 14 August 2019