When I was growing up in my very young years we didn’t have a car. A large family on the breadline. A car was a luxury to most families who lived near me. We were all in the same boat so to speak.
Besides my mum didn’t drive, no spare money to afford driving lessons when you’ve got plenty of mouths to feed. So I remember we didn’t go particularly far in my early years. Food shopping was done via foot, walking to the local shopping centre, walking around the market and the various shops before carrying bags home. Even as a little child I would carry bags of shopping home with my mum, so would my brothers. She would be carrying the heaviest load and it went down in weight per child according to age, the little one carrying the bread. But we all helped. It was probably about a mile walk, when you’re little your legs ache and I remember having to stop regularly while the bags cut into my childlike hands. My mum would begin adjusting the load and taking more if she could. We knew no different, it was how it was.
Early last November I wrote a blog where I questioned whether I had just been arrested? Here is the link:-
It was one of those times when money was just not going on my side. The end result was a fine for a window wiper and a fine for an indicator. To top it off I then got done for speeding within the same week. They always say when we are stressed that we drive faster, as outlined in other blogs, I normally drive like Miss Daisy.
So just before Christmas I had a fine to pay for speeding, and two fines to pay for the car. Plus the repairs to the car. This then lead to another problem, I had the car repaired then a couple of weeks later more problems with the car. Back to the garage for the garage to tell me that to have the repair would be more expensive than the car. Oh dear, it was nearly Christmas, my children are dependent upon me. And to top it off I was hearing about children in the local area who were going without Christmas presents and surviving at Foodbanks. The choice. Pay further repairs to car, buy a new car or pull the car off the road to make sure family have their Christmas presents. My decision made further difficult due to the fact I’d only had my knees drained in April and I live with a health condition that can flair at any time, there have been years when I’ve depended upon my car.
But I pulled the car off the road and we had a wonderful Christmas.
Being resourceful I decided that the money I saved from running a car, tax, insurance, petrol and scrap for old car (that bit amusing, I was offered just £30 – scrap is bad at the minute) – I would put aside for as long as it took to buy a new run around car.
Three dependents and myself without a car. It made me wonder how we would cope as I’d always had access to a car since my children were born. But as they say, it’s during these times we learn lessons and build our wings up. And I had grown up as a child within a family who had extreme financial difficulties. Sometimes I’m grateful to this as it certainly gives you a coping mechanism early on.
A car these days is a necessity to a family isn’t it??? Without one we are held back right???
Here is what I learned during my 5 months without a car…
- I learned how to catch a bus. Silly really learning to catch a bus but when you rely on a car catching a bus is a new experience. Buses began to be a big part in our lives. If we travel a way out of town I do generally prefer train journeys, my children have always enjoyed them and they become part of our adventure. They prefer a train over a car. But little journeys through town we’ve always had a car. However, I learned bus times, bus stops, about the bus station, the times, the pick-up and drop-off points.
- In my learning how to catch a bus I taught the teens and tweens how to catch a bus and found they really enjoyed it. To the point I was considering a taxi home once and my son who was poorly wanted to catch the bus. Watching an 11 and 13 year old squabble over who was pressing the bell on the bus, their delight going on a double decker, refusing to hold onto the bus rails so they could see if they could balance or be thrown backwards as the bus stopped in a large jolt. It reminded me of the small pleasures in life that youngsters can enjoy, it reminded me of youth and how I too had been the same. Same fun, different generation.
- Catching a bus and sitting on a bus began to feel like a sociable experience. More often than not I go from home, car, and work. When sat in a car I’m sat in my shell just concentrating on getting to my destination. When sitting on a public transport I begin to be more aware of my social surroundings. I’ve enjoyed conversations at the bus stop and listened to some fabulous conversations between characters (who were loud) on the bus. As somebody who writes it has been valuable experience and at times very amusing. There were several mornings I’d catch the bus to work and there were others at work on the same bus. It felt like being a youth again, chatting to your school friends on the way to school only this time work friends on the way to work.
- There were times when taxis were the only option but again I got to know lots of taxi drivers, had many interesting conversations. I think I could write a book about my taxi experiences, some were indeed very funny but some were quite in-depth chats. Again as somebody who writes, I enjoyed the experience of meeting new characters.
- I couldn’t always be affording taxis or buses, I used my legs as much as I could. I therefore got much fitter and my pace has increased.
- I didn’t miss the busy traffic in the morning or the road rage or the rush of driving a car. Cars make journeys faster supposedly however I found my three and a half mile walk in the morning which involved passing traffic stood at a standstill meant that I got to work in pretty much the same time.
- Walking has meant that emotionally, physically and mentally I feel much stronger. I found the longer I walked the more the endomorphines would kick in. I’d get to work feeling like I’d left my problems behind and ready for the day. The walk home was similar as I left work behind.
- Walking to work gave me a great chance at enjoying some freedom, freedom from family, freedom from work and freedom from problems. It has been time when I’ve been able to dream away, work through problems or again notice what is going on around me. I live in a village but the walking route is splendid, I’d pass shops and see the same people walking each day.
- I realised the kindness of other people. The lady who offered to give me and my daughter a lift home from dance, the work colleagues who offered to pick me up in the morning or take me home even if it meant a short distance out of their way. I didn’t always take them up on the offer as I was determined to walk most of the time but I did sometimes when the weather was bad or I needed to get home. If they read this blog – it was all received with many thanks.
- It cemented my relationship with my boyfriend more – not that that needed much doing. It is when you go through the difficult patches that the cracks show. I saw my boyfriends, kind, helpful and patient nature even more than I thought possible. He works long long days and starts before many of us are even stirring. But after a long day if I needed to make it to parents evening, or I had to pick my daughter up from netball or I’d found myself stranded with shopping in town as I’d missed the bus. I’d phone him, not once did he grumble and he was always there. If I needed to go to hospital he’d take his holiday allowance that he doesn’t get a lot of and make sure I was taken care of. The times he picked my daughter up or sons he was always rewarded from them by high fives and such like. I guess that’s karma, the more effort you make the more you will get back.
So all in all I did find many benefits of losing my car. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing:-
- It was plan to make the most basic journey, I live in a village so I am not close to the town amenities. What was a five minute job with a car, became an over an hour job or longer without a car. It did give me chance to slow down in life as you can only do what you can do but sometimes it was frustrating to not just get a job over with and move onto the next. I always had to keep emergency taxi money in the house.
- I felt the loss of independence at times. There were times when a bus wasn’t practical or I couldn’t afford another taxi and I would have to ask for a lift. I’m a very independent person too much so at times, so if I can find a way of doing something myself I will. Relying on others didn’t come easy but in some ways the reach out was good too.
- Some weeks it cost much more on public transport than the cost of running a car. I’ve discovered that on a whole when you have dependents who have social lives that running a car (a run around) can actually be cheaper. One day I found myself taxi to school to pick up son, taxi to take him to hospital, to take him back to school, myself home, ready for an interview, to the interview, back home and I’d spend over £40. This was not easy to get head around when I needed every spare penny to save for a new car.
- I tried carrying shopping home on more than one occasion and I felt the cutting into my hands of the bags just as I did as a child. It made me think of my own children and how they’ve never had to do it. I also felt that if I had to cope many more months with no car I would certainly be buying a shopping basket on wheels just like the elderly who walk around town. When you are struggling with shopping you lose any thoughts as to what those are thinking around you. A good thing in a way.
- I found I didn’t miss my car nearly as much in the winter as I thought I would. It’s dark early so once home I’m happy to be home. I didn’t mind the walking as long as dressed in the right shoes, coats, gloves and hats, I didn’t get cold but the breathing in fresh air did do me good. I loved the feel of the wind on my cheeks. However as soon as spring arrived I wanted a car. I’m a member of the National Trust and enjoy taking my youngsters on days out and to the seaside, the Easter Holiday was a difficult one with no car.
Therefore I have scraped together every last penny I’ve got and FINALLY got myself a little run around with low mileage, regularly serviced, in mint condition for years and with over a years MOT, bought from a lovely family. I’m chuffed to bits. It’s sitting on my drive ready for me to tax and insure which I can’t do just yet until I get a little bit more money.
Nearly there, back to being a family with a car. However I fully plan on sticking to my walking routine as much as I can but the independence is back…