Our car Hrududu failed to start again this morning, as the battery had drained itself of charge and its connections, held on by jubilee clips for years, have started to come loose again, apparently owing to differential shrinkage of metals in the biting cold. A party I was hoping to go to had to be abandoned: while K. took the bus, I was loath to leave an angrily recharging battery with the cat, in a house that tonight’s snow might make it difficult to return to.
I’m not going to bang on about the car owner’s burden, but I do ask only two things from the motor vehicle that our local councils almost force people to own: that it be reliable; and that it be economical. With those two criteria satisfied, I can put up with all manner of ugliness and discomfort. The problem is that we’ve only managed to fudge the latter in a 32mpg vehicle by hardly ever using it; now that the former can no longer be guaranteed either, we’ll have to start looking for a replacement vehicle.
It’s an odd coincidence that my parents suggested less than a month ago – for the second year running – that they help us buy such a vehicle when they come over for my birthday in yet another month’s time. Maybe it’s a suggestion of its time, an echo back to us of all the minor niggles we’ve mentioned having with Hrududu. But partly it definitely comes from my parents thinking that our reluctance to drive when we could use alternative transport stems from how we feel about our options, rather than how we feel about consumption, social good and shared space. I do worry – indeed, predict – that our driving will increase when we get a new car.
People we know, living in the same driver-obsessed council tiers as us, have managed to do entirely without a car; we sort of did as well, for a few years, long before we got a cat or our own house. Such are the choices we make, of course; but I did ask them how they managed to do without a car at all, despite one of them being severely disabled. They mentioned lifestyle changes, career changes, life changes: few of which neither K. nor I can quite conscience at the moment. But there’s the germ of a plan in there, which might bear fruit should Witney ever get a car club; but for whose successful propagation we can no longer really wait.
In the mean time, another, harder decision awaits us. Hrududu has been good to us. It – she – it has been a companion and faithful servant. Our first car would always attract affection, but Hrududu’s lack of sophistry or crankiness has led us to consider it – she – it as almost part of the family. While this weekend’s events have drained me of most of my last few vestiges of feeling towards it – she – it, I foresee a difficult farewell to an inanimate object ahead of us.
If I can just somehow transplant the Bagpuss air freshener to our next car, we might be in with a chance of saying goodbye without tears.