Tuesday, 21 October 2014

On carlessness

Back before the bear was born, while we were taking turns to get caught in a panicked loop,  reeling off items whose possession we considered essential features of the parenthood that was nearly upon us (Me: lipstick, tinned food, prunes; Him: lampshades, a shed) there was one item that recurred: a car. We were full of all sorts of unrealistic and bizarre preconceptions concerning the essential nature of parents and their accoutrements, but car-ownership stood out as something with actual reason backing it up. Cars help you to carry things to places without getting wet. They enable you to drive to supermarkets and appointments. They permit last-minute scrambles for the safety of grandparents' houses. Everyone we know who has progeny has a car, we thought. Without a car you're second-class, not a proper grown-up, not to be trusted with raising a human.

Finances are not the only reason that we never submitted to these instincts, however. 'What about the environment?' I thought. 'What about the dangers of re-learning how to parallel park while terminally sleep-deprived?' 'What if I forget where I parked the car and we never find it again?'

We have long been advocates of swapping bikes for cars. Its saves a fortune, incorporates exercise into your life without you really noticing or having to make time, its pleasant (unless its raining) and it avoids the little matter of PUMPING TOXINS INTO THE LUNGS OF INNOCENT AND HELPLESS PASSERSBY.

Did I mention that I don't like cars? I don't enjoy driving them, much less parking them. I don't enjoy being a passenger in them. I don't like having to steer my pram around them when they are taking up the pavement. I don't like risking being run over or knocked off my bike by them. But most of all, I really can't stand the way they go around pouring crap out all over the place. I really can't understand why more isn't made of the moral argument that car-owners are maliciously injuring those around them, and are obliged to do something by way of compensation for the harms that they inflict.  How is it okay for car owners to spray poison at me while i'm going about my business?!

I worry about the effects on orson (or 'Oreos' as my iPad refers to him) of being raised somewhere so inundated with vehicular effluent and I never intend to become one more of the causers of this problem if I can help it.

However, with winter fast approaching and Oxford's frighteningly short list of baby-friendly-things-to-do-when-its-pissing-it-down weighing on my mind, I regularly revisit The Car Question. We still can't afford one, but suppose we were to win the lottery/stop spending so much money panic shopping at sainsburys....would life be better if we were be-carred?

Health and waistline benefits derived from cycling and walking everywhere.
Money spent on petrol: 0
Money spent on  road tax: 0
Money spent on insurance: 0
Time spent sitting in traffic jams: 0
Poison shoved down throat of passing pedestrians and cyclists: 0
Pleasure incurred by toddler whizzing along streets instead of whinging in back of a car.
Pleasure incurred by toddler on trains and buses instead of whinging in back of car (minus pain of managing toddler on public transport: move to con list).
Not having to drive.
Not having to park.
Not having to remember where car is parked.

That's the smug list.
Here's the rather more realistic list of disadvantages.

Cycling the nursery run in driving rain/wind/snow.
Not being able to make spontaneous trips.
Having to get our shopping from tesco online (and foregoing the delights of Lidl).
Nearly being reversed over by a white van/knocked over by various cars.
Time spent waiting for trains/buses: too much
Money spent on buses, taxis, trains and hire cars: considerable
Money spent on third party excess insurance so car hire companies don't rip me off (not much: move to smug list).
Money lost not being able to shop in Lidl and haemorrhaging it all in sainsburys instead: don't think about it.
Being limited to activities in a four mile radius: no Blenheim castle, no Cotswold animal park.
Not knowing what the hell to do when it's raining. 
Occasionally having to drive/park/find a hire car.

How much longer will we hold out?
Watch this space.

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