I brought a car at the beginning of July. After going 21 months without driving, I decided it was time to get back on the road. (You can see how I previously fared after 9 months without a car)
The number one reason for getting a car was that my family are back in the country. We need to get littl’un to school, do the shopping and have a life where we don’t have to worry that everything takes so much longer than normal.
The first example is picking them up from the airport. Normally we have a good friend who gives us lifts whenever we need them – we’ve done him some big favours so we get a few in return. Relying on him to help us out all the time would be a bit much, besides he isn’t always available since he works. Picking up the family during the daytime would have been hugely disruptive to him.
Then there’s the convenience factor. To get to London Heathrow Airport is a 20 minute drive. Sure, there’s the joy of parking, waiting and the extortionate fees for an hour’s worth of leaving your car in a piece of “prime” real estate, but that’s nothing when compared to the alternative which is either a £50 taxi, 20 minute drive straight to your door or the £14 bus to Woking then a train from Woking to Farnborough and then either a 30-40 walk home with suitcases (!) or a £7 taxi.
It was easier to buy a £325 car, spend £25/month on insurance, £75 for 6 months tax, put a £50 tyre on it and a £40 starter motor.
But then, 6 weeks later, we were offered a slightly bigger car. An estate that I can put my mountain bikes in. 4 doors so that passengers can get in and out easier. 5 gears instead of 4 (try driving the motorway in a 4-speed Metro) and comfort. But a 2.3 litre engine as opposed to a 1.1 and insurance at £50/month (I shudder to think what the tax disc will be!) [update: The VED for six months was £118.50]
The other advantage is that business has been picking up and I’m being called out to more IT support jobs and cycling has been fun – turning up sweaty, soaking wet from the rain, even with blood and gravel rash at a client meeting one day.
So, fellow greens, I’ve turned to the dark side. I’ve got a car again and I’m biking less than I have been. I’m using less public transport and I’m walking less, so I’m contributing to the obesity epidemic (not really) and CO2 emissions! I’m sorry.
There are pros and cons to walking, cycling, public transport and driving. I’m all for all these forms of transport but in the most balanced manner. I did go out for a 3 hour off-road ride through the woods on Thursday night, so I haven’t completely turned over to the dark side, but with school coming up, business booming and a life of slavery to the wage, this has to be done.
I hope you’ll forgive me
We were watching the TV the other night, struggling for something interesting and informative to watch, when we just chanced upon back-to-back episodes of Channel 4′s Grand Designs.
Now I forget the first episode that we saw the tail end of but the follow-up was the most excellent episode with the woodsman, Ben Law. Ben was working and living in the woods in Sussex for 10 years where he earned a living from coppicing, making wooden furniture and charcoal. His dream was to hand-build a cruck-framed house in the middle of the woods.
With planning laws being tough on building in woodland, and rightfully so, Ben persuaded the planners of his needs to move out of a rusty caravan and into a more permanent structure. With a budget of £20-25,0000 Ben’s house was designed to be natural, blend into the surrounding woods and to be self-sufficient.
With no services being piped into the site, Ben is totally reliant on the sun and the wind to put power into an array of 2v, 920ah ex-submarine batteries and he collects enough water from rainfall and a spring to provide
“…enough for probably half a village..”
Ben also grows a lot of his own fruit and vegetables to, but how much we don’t know.
That’s enough of our praise for the moment, if you want to see it for yourself go to 4oD and watch the original 2003 Grand Designs series 3 episode 5.
What was particularly nice about the show we watched was that it was actually an edition of Grand Designs Revisited. I’d thought for 8 years that it would be great to visit Prickly Nut Woods in West Sussex some time, and Ben now provides occasional tours of his lovely woodland house. 2011′s dates are all fully-booked but there are slots upon for a visit next year.
Ben has also branched out and written a number of books and is involved in a number of schemes to teach skills and pass on his expert knowledge. For more information have a look at Ben’s personal website.