22. Oct, 2016

TRANSPORT P.A.Y.G.


“You mean you have never so much as sat behind the wheel of a car in your entire life?” A statement that when directed at me is accompanied by pitying incredulity. This is immediately followed by,
“But how do you manage without a car?”
The quick answer is, “Fairly easily, actually!”
I then offer the explanation.
My stepfather often offered to teach me while I was in the sixth form, but driving just did not appeal to me.
Later, as a newly qualified teacher, my attitude to motor cars had not changed and although I had the time to learn to drive, I simply could not afford it. (Now, having retired, although I can afford it, I just don’t have the time!)
Not driving, however, has brought a number of dividends, professionally and privately.
My first flat had to be within both the school catchment area and walking distance. I thus met parents informally in shops, pubs, market and on public transport. This established a pattern I retained throughout my career and was to prove vital in student-parent-teacher relations.
Elizabeth and I have found that most of our friends who have cars, have rarely driven outside their comfort zones, especially with the onset of age. We have had no such inhibitions. Travelling by coach, service bus, train, boat, catamaran and plane we have photographed in every county of mainland Blighty and locations in Europe from County Kerry to Moravia, Hanover to Malta.
“Ah yes, but what about local journeys?” (The next question).
“We have a number of options. For shopping in the village we have legs (remember them and what they are for?) and in Elizabeth’s case an electric mobility scooter big enough for her and the shopping.
We have a good daytime bus service in Stalham either direct to Norwich or Cromer to Yarmouth“.
“That is fine,” (the next objection), “But surely you can’t take a mobility scooter on board a bus!” Wrong. (Time for Elizabeth to demonstrate her “Luggie” a battery-powered scooter that folds up to the size of a small suitcase).
“Yeah, but however long does it take to get anywhere on a bus?”
“We are retired so our time is our own. It is not difficult planning a day out around a bus timetable. Besides, what is the rush? We are not needed at a drop of hat to zoom off and solve any world banking crisis!”
“Ah yes, but supposing you are in a rush or wanting to go to a place far off a bus route. What do you do then?”
“We hire a taxi.”
“But isn’t that expensive!”
“Not when you compare it to the cost of Elizabeth and I both taking driving lessons, buying a car, maintaining it, fuel, road tax, MOT, insurance, annual depreciation parking problems… you have a car so you know what I mean!”
“True! You might have a good point here. You’ve got me thinking!”

This is a conversation we have had many times and is retailed here not to criticise drivers nor to flaunt our particular choice. Friends who have driven most of their lives are now finding it increasingly difficult due to age and/or infirmity. We urge them to look for alternative forms of transport. Loss of a car is not the end. It can be the beginning!