29 August 2012
Wilf Marston has met people from all walks of life who have sat in the back of his taxi over the past 23 years. He talks to Chine Mbubaegbu about life and faith during his break from a busy day taxiing around Greater Manchester.
idea: Why did you become a taxi driver?
It was a way out of difficulty. I had a newspaper shop which I had owned for nine years. I was having a really difficult time and was trying to send my daughter to private school. I was losing money left right and centre. So I worked at the shop all day and then went taxiing in the evenings. It gave me a tool in which to pay off my debts. God gave me the chance to do this. It also showed me how hard I can work. I ended up earning more money in the taxi, so gave the business up. I’ve been doing this for 23 years.
Who have you had in the back of your taxi?
The most famous is probably Sir Bobby Charlton. He knows I’m a Christian. And so does property mogul and businessman John Whittaker. They know about my faith because I can’t help but tell everyone about it in my taxi. Chrissie Hynde has also been in my taxi. She was absolutely brilliant. Oh, and Vicky Entwistle who plays Janice in Coronation Street.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
No-one ever asked me what I wanted to be, to be honest. The only available job was at a fishmongers owned by Albert Fidler, the dad of former footballer Dennis Fidler who played in the 1960s. It stank of fish though!
Have you had any other interesting jobs?
I actually used to be an A-Z maps salesman in Birmingham. That was fun.
What’s the best bit about being a taxi driver?
I just love meeting people. It’s great because you’re never doing the same job. You never know what’s going to come up. You see people from all walks of life. Lincoln is the farthest job I have had. I couldn’t resist because I wanted to see the cathedral. I love churches and cathedrals. I also get regular jobs to and from the Wythenshawe Hospital and The Christie hospice. It’s great to talk to people about faith and life and death. I value these conversations more than those with any famous people that have been in the back of my taxi.
What’s been the most memorable taxi booking you’ve had?
A young man that I picked up at the Trafford Centre. He looked awful. I asked him what was wrong. He said that he had wanted to jump in front of my cab and kill himself. He had had 19 operations on a brain tumour. I spent time chatting to him. A couple of weeks later he called the cab station I worked for and left a message for me: “Tell Wilf I’m alright.”
Do you ever suffer from road rage?
No, never. I’ve learnt now that even for the worst things i.e. when people race past me, my meeting with them is only fleeting. It’s a few seconds. There’s no point in getting angry. I just relax.
Do you ever feel stressed out though?
Taxi driving is actually quite stressful. We’re on the road around 20-30 times more than an ordinary driver. That gets very stressful. Plus, the taxi industry has changed a lot over the years. Business isn’t as good as it used to be. It’s pretty tough and there’s a lot of competition. There are even fights breaking out over fares. When it comes to this, it makes me really sad. I’m probably going to have to work till I’m 70 and I know one taxi driver who’s over 90. I’ve actually started cycling for stress relief.
Do you get time to get involved in church?
Yes, I love my church – South Manchester Family Church. I love doing things there. I had to stop doing PA because I was going deaf in my right ear, but I’m one of the chief stewards. I enjoy church life and it gives me a chance to meet people as well. I have made lots of friends. I just love to help out. I’m quite hands-on. I’ll put my hands up to do anything.