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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, May 02, 2004
    T for TAXI
     
    If I were to take up Common Ground's suggestion to learn to read this locality by creating an A-B-C (and well I might), I think I could start with T - T for TAXI.

    (Outside of London, I guess) Taxis are the poor person's mode of transport. More expensive per mile than buses, trains, for all I know planes, but less expensive than running a car. Essential where disability makes bus travel impossible, essential in areas the buses won't go, valuable as sources of income in a lean local economy, it's no surprise that taxis are ubiquitous here, in this poor place. No wonder that there's more taxis per person in Liverpool than any other city.

    They're in their element today, the taxi drivers. Bank holiday, few buses, lots of movement. Since I've been writing this half the vehicles passing by the window have been taxis - hackneys, black and white, and private hires all shapes, sizes and conditions. They'll take any work - the two ladies who made up half tonight's congregation came literally 300 yards by taxi to church, as they always do, there and back. A quid well spent, one says, for her legs will no longer carry her and "I love my church." And they'll work any hours - proud of myself for getting up before dawn to lead the sunrise service on Easter Day I was humbled by the sight of a cluster of taximen assembled in their usual spot outside Farmfoods, next to the bookies, chatting away like it was lunchtime: to them it probably was.

    An irony of poverty, that the lowest-incomed travel the most expensive way. One of many similar ironies, like the lowest-incomed also pay the highest interest rates (as the high street banks won't have them on their books they're prey to shark-like financiers) and the biggest utility bills (direct debit customers get the benefits metered customers are denied).

    T is for TAXI, one indicator of the particular place I am now. One down, 25 to go.