My car was due its yearly test to make sure it was safe to be on the road. It was time, also, to pay my yearly car insurance premium and in a couple of months it would be time to pay my road tax. It would all add up to around something over £500 – not a lot in the scheme of things but when I tell you that in each of the previous three years I had driven no more than 800 miles, the per mile expense was quite high! So, having driven even fewer than 800 during the past year, I decided to give up driving!
I went to Google to find a company that buys and collects older cars – my Ford Focus was just about 20 years old though still running pretty well and in good condition. I knew that if I went to trade it in on another car it would probably be valued at around £100 so hoped that I could find someone who would pay that much, and I did! In fact they paid me £175.00, came to my house, put the old car on a low-loader, handed me a cheque for the agreed amount and drove off.
I didn’t even wave good-bye to it.
Why give up my car?
Well, dear readers, I am now 78 years old and though my reactions are still really excellent – I’ve caught more than one dropped dish before it hit the floor – my eyes are 78 years old and have stopped seeing distances quite so easily, also night driving, even twilight driving, has become almost painful; my nerves are 78 years old and, though I’ve never had so much as a bump, a speeding ticket (or even a parking ticket), I have become more wary of driving – just in case….
I remember when I first passed my test. I was late to driving, as the public transport system in London, where I lived, was brilliant and the roads were very busy, but with a school-age daughter and a job in the opposite direction from school, I needed to be able to get from A to B more quickly. I was so pleased to be able to drive and pleased with the car I bought (see much earlier post about my Austin Cambridge and subsequent cars).
I failed the first time – from being too cautious! I think a lot of my past passengers would say that I didn’t outgrow that specific fault although I did get better as the years flew by.
In 1971 my mother decided we had to leave London as it was getting more and more expensive to live there, I had given up my job and was going to teacher training college in the autumn and Judy, my sister, was going to the London School of Economics.
So, Patty (mum) bought the house in West Malling (see earlier stories), the family moved the 40 or so miles into ‘the country’ and then Judy, Veronica and I had to find ‘digs’ in London for term time living. (I’ll describe that in another post).
Every week end of term time, we would wait for Patty to arrive from her job then pile into my old Cambridge with our bedding (we couldn’t afford 2 lots each) and would drive to West Malling.
When we had moved to West Malling and I had my first job teaching in a council run school (after the privately run school in Rochester), I had to drive daily to Snodland, a journey of no more than three miles. Back then I had to go to the bottom of the High Street and turn right across the traffic. I hated turning right across the traffic but I learned to do it – otherwise my job wouldn’t have lasted long! After a short drive down the A20 there was a left turn which took me past a bank of detached houses and Leybourne church on the left and fields on the right. Nowadays there is a collection of roundabouts and traffic lights before entering Snodland and, for the life of me, I can’t remember what was there before – back in 1977. I’m not even certain that the M20, nowadays a very busy motorway taking foreign and domestic traffic from the coast to London, was finished yet.
Over the years there were by-passes, roundabouts, traffic lights, building sites and more roundabouts making my school journey easier in some respects and more difficult in others. I retired from teaching in the early 90’s and from antique and collectable selling in 2005 and used my car for short trips to the shops or the cinema or the doctor’s surgery. I occasionally went a little further but not so often as time went on. With grocery deliveries and a good bus route for other shopping (as well as the Internet), 2019 seemed a good time to give up my little pile of old metal.
It’s nearly two years since I gave up driving. I have missed having a car on very few occasions – a quick visit to the local garden centre, perhaps, – but with the Covid19 pandemic, even that was out if bounds for most of the time. Perhaps I’ll miss driving more now that I could go places but I don’t think it’s been a hardship – and, I suppose one could look at it from the perspective of the climate….I haven’t added to the carbon monoxide or dioxide or particulates in the air so, all in all, it was a good decision! (Now, if I could just give up using electricity, gas, plastic, paper etc etc, that would be even better!)