Monday, 3 October 2011

Me and my car

Driving in London holds little pleasure.  The roads are congested, slow and full of roadworks, and you burn through expensive, polluting petrol sitting in traffic jams just to go a mile or two down the road.  And at the same time, the much-maligned tube and bus networks are fantasically convenient.  Bikes are now everywhere in London and bike stands to lock your bike to are springing up all over the place - including right outside my local knitting shop, which is costing me dearly.

I spend much of my life trying to avoid going out in the car. 

Driving home at Christmas - 2008
Driving down the Mile End Road in East London, 2007

The more I walk around London, the more I enjoy walking, and it is slowly dawning on me that everything is closer together than the tube network would lead me to believe.  I drive O the three and a half miles to school in the mornings, but pick her up by tube and on foot in the afternoons.  I am counting down the days (years in reality) until she joins her brother at secondary school and I don't have to use the car every day.

Cam reading in the car
C on the way to primary school, 2008.  He has to walk to secondary school now, and moans constantly about it.

And yet...I really love driving and I love my car.  Just as long as it's not in London.  I relish long road trips, and the sense of adventure that comes with them.  It dawned on me this weekend, as I was zooming up the M11 to spend the day with my sister, that this is largely due to the fact that I treat the car as my own personal karaoke machine.

Rapeseed fields in Cambridgeshire
Vivid yellow rapeseed fields in Cambridgeshire, seen from the M11


French autoroute
A long, straight autoroute somewhere in central France

In our family we have the rule that whoever is driving gets to choose the music.  The children can listen to their iPods in the back if they don't like what we've got on.  Which, yes, these days is pretty much all the time.

Another boring car trip
O tires of my singing, 2005

Yesterday I had the windows open (air-con off to preserve petrol) and I was singing at the top of my voice to Lady Antebellum and Caro Emerald.  I was travelling alone, otherwise I would have sung at a more moderate volume.  But I must sing.  Good iPod playlists for the car are ones that have plenty of tunes and not too many high notes.

Conventional cars are not good for the environment.  They are pointless and annoying in big cities, where public transport is almost always a much better option.  They are beocming eye-wateringly expensive to maintain.  But the convenience, and the sheer delight, of being able to take youself wherever you want to go the minute you decide you want to; and the exhilaration of singing with the windows open (or the top down if you are really lucky) as you bowl down an empty road, means that I am still a long way from falling out of love with my car.

Cam and Livvy by the car
C and O by the car, in a field somewhere in Wales, 2006

Waiting at a Swiss level crossing
Waiting at a level crossing, in a mountain pass in Switzerland last year.  I drove (and navigated) there and back by myself.

How about you?  Do you have a car you love?  Do you hate to drive?  Do you have driving playlists on your iPod? Do you avoid long drives or drives in the dark, or do you dream of taking early retirement and taking a road trip across America for a few months in a motorhome?  I'm saving up already.

17 comments:

  1. Lovely to see pictures of C & O when they were little & I think I spotted a cardi that once belonged to L in there too. I loved that cardi!!
    I have to drive for work most days & rely on music to make the journeys a little less tedious.I too can sing at the top of my lungs when alone in the car. It's also where I do a lot of thinking, sometimes even though I don't really want to, but the thoughts just seem to barge in with out knocking, things that at other times I can manage to put out of my mind. I was once very scared to even venture out of my local area. Now I drive, sometimes hundreds of miles away from home on my own, but not as far as Switzerland!! You crazy chick!! xx

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  2. No choice but to drive everywhere when you live in a village with only a handful of buses a day that mostly don't go where you need to be. But I love my car and would want it wherever I lived. It holds the promise of escape ... to anywhere !

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  3. I don't own a car, never have and never will, but this doesn't prevent me from imagining the exhilaration you describe. I get the same feeling of freedom from walking, especially along coastal paths. I love the wide open spaces. Walking also helps me clear my brain, mull things over and make up my mind. And as for trains...

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  4. I rely on my car completely. Our village does have a bus service but only one on a Thursday morning! I'd love to live in a village with a shop but can't see that happening for years, we are too firmly ensconced with life here and our big garden. Life is always a compromise heh?

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  5. I LOVE driving to and from work each day. It is my only bit of me time most days and I relish listening to the radio or ipod, depending on what day it is and what sort of mood I am in! some mornings it's Radio 2, some evenings it's Radio 4. Sometimes it's Classic fm, sometimes it involves belting out KT Tunstall songs at the top of my voice.My car is full of recipe books, baking beans, flan tins, shoes and cake cases. All for work. And usually a mug of tea!

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  6. Prague is also better to navigate on foot or by public transport, but I love to take our car out into the countryside and go exploring (or drive to Switzerland, one of my favorite spots too :-).

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  7. I *love* driving! Like you, not in town, but give me some long straight roads or even windy country ones, and I'm in my element.

    Frustratingly, despite living in London, all my stations are a flipping drive away (or a bus, I suppose) and this seems to stop my going into town nowadays.

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  8. I loathe driving on the school run, but give me a long, solo trip with something good at the end and I'm a happy girl. Though never organised enough to make playlists to accompany me. I radio surf instead. And think. Some of our biggest, most life altering events have started as discussions on long car journeys.

    Though nothing beats a good bit of people watching on public transport either.

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  9. We only have the one car and hubs uses that for work, so I don't drive often. Both our boys' schools are within walking distance. When I do drive though, I do love to sing at the top of my voice! I rarely remember to put any of my own cds in the car so it's the radio for me. I don't particularly like driving in the dark (or worse, dark and rain) but I've got used to motorways now and we have a sat nav for those occasions when I'm not sure where I'm going!

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  10. I sing in the car all the time but as the CD player doesn't work and I hate my MP3 player, it means either singing (without 'accompaniment') whatever I can remember of songs I sort-of know or singing along to Classic FM (only radio station I can stand). I'm not the only one singing 'Kill da Wabbit' to the Ride of the Valkyries am I? My kids are always begging me to stop..

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  11. I used to love driving. The singing, the being-in-control-of-your-destiny (until you hit traffic, anyway), the adventure. But tragically I have produced not one, but TWO children who loathe and despise car journeys, don't all asleep, and mostly shriek from the moment they are strapped into their seats until the moment they are released.

    Car journey by myself are still brilliant. Car journeys with my offspring, not so much.

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  12. I love driving on the open road!

    When I lived in France I taught English to business people and would have to drive to their work places - which took me all over the countryside (Franche Comte) and it was, at times, hair raising and I often got lost on the first visit.

    But I grew to love the time I spent on the road and got to know the region like the back of my hand.

    Now, we walk and cycle as much as we can but also do use the car quite a bit - public transport is OK but it's obviously not the same here as in London and one does need a car.

    We were up in Brick Lane last Sunday and hubby took a wrong turn and we ended up driving down Brick Lane through all those crowds of people- I wanted to crawl through the back seat and hide in the boot! It was a nightmare - I thought we'd never get out of it.

    Then we went to Chinatown for lunch and getting there through the (Sunday!!) traffic was hideous too.

    So yes can quite see the pointlessness of a car in London.

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  14. I am just learning and cannot wait to be able to do the school run in the rain with a car rather than with a 20 min walk!

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