Tuesday 29 November 2011

Car less

I have now been without my car for a fortnight whilst the garage continues to try and solve the mystery of why it won't work properly. It has made me realise how much I rely on having my own vehicle for the daily activities of myself and my children.

When I got my first full time job back in 1995 I put a deposit down on a brand new little Citroen AX as it was a 20 mile each way commute with no public transport. I still look back in fondness on this little car as it gave me the freedom to get to all my activities, socialise and visit my family all over the country.

Similar to mine photo by Randy

My next job came with a company car (for some reason an Audi A4 estate!) so I sold my own little car. I had to travel all over England visiting customers from Preston to Ipswich. I'll probably never have such a swanky car again and boy was it far too easy to whizz around the motorway network...

After switching jobs I bought myself a second hand Rover 200. Not too whizzy but it got me to and from work and round about OK. One day the head gasket blew so I used part of the proceeds of selling my flat to buy a nearly new Ford Galaxy. I'd just got married and had 3 step children and the hope of more to come so wanted a suitably sized car. 

The Galaxy was such a versatile car and I loved driving it and having the flexibility to have several passengers. Unfortunately being a petrol engine it became increasingly expensive to run and with a second baby on the way I made the decision to downsize to my current Skoda Octavia diesel. The car was an X reg 1999 model and was much more economical to run. For the last 5 and half years this car has been very reliable (one new part a year!) and has gone through the 162,000 mile mark.

Two weeks ago it started playing up and finally gave up going forwards on the main road through Kendal.. The garage have fixed a string of faults on it but it just won't behave properly. So I am having to find alternative ways of getting about.

When I lived in Hastings I had a couple of spells of being unable to drive due to having a Caesarian Section and one operation on my hand. During these intervals I was able to carry on with my normal routine (nursery, work and shopping etc.) by using the really good local bus network which wasn't too expensive to use. I am discovering that up here in a smaller town that life without your own car is a lot more restricted.

Because there wan't room at the nearest school when we moved here I chose a village school which is a 5 mile drive away. For most of the past 2 weeks my parents have had to come and pick us up to do the school run. On the one night they couldn't I had to use public transport. As there was no train for 1.5 hours after the end of school I elected to go on the bus. These run about every 30 minutes through the village and do within a mile of our home. As it was peak time my daughter's discount card wasn't valid and I was shocked to find that it cost £8 for the 3 of us to take a single journey of 5 miles!

I have been unable to do my normal trips to the supermarket until today as I haven't worked out which combination of buses will work. On Thursday I took advantage of Iceland's home delivery service to get the majority of our weekly shop. The rest has been got from local shops in small amounts. The recycling has also piled up as the cardboard and plastic have to go to points based either at supermarkets, the dump or the village centre.

My children have swimming lessons at a pool a few miles from their school. Again normally a 10 minute drive but if I'd had to use public transport its  a lot longer. Luckily my parents have been able to chauffer to this. My daughter's cub meetings are normally a 5 minute drive away but this week it was a cold and damp 30 minute scoot/walk in the dark.

On Friday the garage lent me van so I could transport my books to an event. It only has 2 seats so still leaves me short on school runs etc. It has enable me to deliver pre-ordered books a week later than promised to customers. I have also been able to get to the supermarket on the edge of town to a) recycle b) get some bits Iceland don't sell. A friend has offered the loan of a spare car if mine doesn't come back today.

It really has brought home to me what a disadvantage it is not to have access to a car in a small town or rural area. The access to facilities and shops etc is severely restricted or limited due to the cost of public transport. It really limits employment opportunities too. Living in a large town or city lack of a car is much less of a problem as public transport is more readily available and much more affordable.

Here's hoping my car comes back to me soon as I am missing all the freedom and flexibility it gives me for both work and leisure as well as the school run!


  1. This really is something people don't think about until they have to experience it for themselves. We live in a village and don't drive. DH works in the village so that's fine but for Miss P and I to get around it's the bus (an hour journey to get to the nearest town). There are 6 a day so timing is crucial. It does limit employment opportunities and they are incredibly expensive for the service provided. I really hope your car's ok and back with you asap!

  2. We can't afford a car so don't have one. We live in Central Cambridge and are lucky to be able to walk/cycle most places and there are excellent public transport options available too. However, public transport can be expensive and it can be cheaper for us all to get in a cab than it is to catch a bus. If we lived somewhere further out having a car would be essential. I do miss driving but with the congestion around Cambridge I'm happy not to drive most of the time. Hope your car is fixed asap xx

  3. What is really interesting about this is the thought of what it would have been like for you if your parents had not been able to help out - ie no access to a car at all... I live in the city so could probably manage, but all the children's activities would be curtailed and I'd say long hours would be spent at cold bus stops :(


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