Just over two weeks ago I wrote off our car. I drove it into an (illegally) parked car which was sticking out into the road, and was clamped and then towed shortly after the accident. My windscreen was misted up so I didn’t see it, until I’d crashed into the back of it. I was fine, the other car just had a stratch on it, but ours had a reasonable sized dent and when I attempted to drive it again the steering was all off. So I decided it was safer to leave it at the side of the road (in a safe place), and then arrange for it to be picked up by the garage.
Its taken two weeks for the insurance company to decide that it’s a write off. So we’ve been without a car for the past two weeks. It’s odd, because all through university and for my first 18 months in Bristol I didn’t have access to a car. Other than my friend’s cars. And even when I was a child we had a car but my Mum couldn’t drive, my Dad was in work a lot, so most of the time when I needed to get somewhere I walked, cycled or bused it. But recently I’ve been taking advantage of having a car – being able to go to the supermarket of your choice, rather than the one that is walking distance, being able to move house, being dropped off at work when it’s tipping it down instead of cycling in. And in the past few months I’ve even had the car during the week days when I’m not in work, because Mr B’s been cycling to work. And then suddenly it’s gone.
It wouldn’t have been that big an issue if we had finished moving house. But we hadn’t. At the time of crashing the car was full of cleaning stuff and other odds and ends that hadn’t made it to the new house yet. I managed to salvage all of this stuff before the car got taken for scrap, by doing two trips on foot – the first with a set of plastic drawers (that we use for recycling) that had wheels on the bottom, so I filled it with stuff from the car and wheeled it along the pavement. The second time I took my big 55L rucksack and filled it, and then ended up carrying a garden hose, mop and bucket, two axles stands, a tent, a garden fork and garden clippers. I did manage to strap some of that stuff to my rucksack, although I think I looked pretty silly with a mop sticking a metre above my rucksack… And even more silly when Mr B showed me how to make the mop half the size… We also had lots of stuff in the old flat that we’d planned to take the recycling centre, and then couldn’t. We had to throw what we could in the bin and apologise to the landlord regarding the rest of it. We also did several walking trips between the old place and the new place, with stuff that hadn’t been moved yet. Thankfully it was only 0.7 of a mile.
So there’s the disadvantages… On the flip side, I think it made me realise how much I took our car for granted. When you don’t have a car, you have to cycle or walk everywhere. We normally try to shop locally anyway, but ‘local’ shrinks when you don’t have a car. Having said this, ‘Ikea’ is now ‘local’, in that it is walking distance, as we’ve recently discovered. The only problem with that is, you can’t buy any furniture. It’s made both of us slightly fitter, now that we *have to* cycle to work. We’re both slightly too far from work to walk now. And it’s up hill on the way home.
Yesterday we spent about four hours on a round bus trip to the suburbs to look at a car Mr B had researched online. And we’ve bought it! It’s a second hand car which cost roughly the amount the insurance company are giving us for the old car, but the new car is better! It’s bigger and the CO2 emissions are very low. We’re waiting to hear that its service is finished, which should be in the next couple of days. I think Mr B is going to cycle out there this time – we had a half an hour walk at either end of the bus rides, so it wasn’t exactly straightforward, and then hope to fit his bike in the back of the car to get it home. And then we can buy heavy stuff from the supermarket, the bike shed for our bikes and take some bits and bobs to the tip. 🙂 But we have promised to continue cycling as much as possible.