In a new series from the little-bit-brilliant Keris Stainton (she of the weaning diary ‘Slopsville‘ fame… and rather less importantly a small amount of minor stardom as a much-touted fabulous YA author of course), Carless Whispers is a record of her family’s experience of Life Minus Car…
Once upon a time, we had two cars. Well, I say once upon a time – it was about a month ago. The MOT was due on my car (a titchy Daewoo Matiz) and my husband David said it would certainly fail. With petrol prices as they are and my insurance being pretty high since I only passed my test a few years ago, running two cars was expensive and, we decided, unnecessary. We could manage with one, we said. We’d managed with one up until a year ago when my dad found he could no longer drive for health reasons and gave us his Rover. It would mean doing the school run on foot, but I could do with the exercise. It’d be fine.
So we scrapped my car. I was surprised at how emotional it was. I felt guilty, thinking I should have tried the MOT – maybe the car wasn’t as bad as we thought. Maybe it would have passed. I should at least have given it a chance! As it was put on the back of the scrap merchant’s truck, I actually cried. It had taken me a LONG time to learn to drive and it was my first car. I was going to miss it.
I started doing the school run on foot – me, my 6-year-old son Harry and 20-month-old Joe in his buggy. It’s about a half hour walk each way, but it was good. We had fun. A few times when I picked Harry up, it was raining heavily so I phoned David, who works just 20 minutes drive away and finishes at 4, and we waited in the library for him to pick us up. We were saving money on insurance and petrol, had got £60 back on the Road Tax and £80 scrap for the car. It was all working out very well. (Did you just hear the “sod’s law” alarm going off?)
After a couple of weeks, we were driving up to David’s parents to drop the boys off for the night. David was going out with work colleagues and I’d planned an indulgent evening of Friends repeats and a Chinese takeaway. As we headed up quite a steep hill to their house, the car started making a strange rattling sound.
“That’s not a happy sound,” I said.
“Nope,” David agreed. He seemed to be having trouble changing gear.
“Has it been doing that for a while?” I asked.
“Just started,” David said.
We made it up the hill, but the rattling continued on the flat. We turned a corner and headed up another, smaller hill. We got to the top, stopped at the junction and… the car died.
“Great,” David said.
“Is that smoke?” I asked, pointing at the front of the car.
David rolled the car back to the kerb and parked it. I hauled the boys and their bags out of the back. We walked the last five minutes to the in-laws’ house.
“Maybe it’s nothing,” I said.
But we knew.
We all knew.
Even Harry said, “What are we going to do about a car NOW?”
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