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July 29, 2011

As a child I hated trips in the family car. The upholstery always smelled unpleasant to me – a mix of stale smoke, petrol and whatever material it was made of, and the combination made me feel sick. The motion always affected me badly, and usually my father would smoke all the time he was driving, and that added to my queasiness.

I was seldom excited enough by the occasion to forget that I was probably going to feel ill on the journey and often just wished to stay at home with my feet firmly on the ground.

My brothers, like most boys, seemed to know all the makes of vehicle under the sun and to enjoy spotting them as we zoomed along, but cars bored me, They were, to me, just a way of getting about, and a pretty uncomfortable one at that.

When I was small Dad used to have large camper van style cars that doubled as work vans for him. We used to go on holiday with extended family all packed in the large space. Then we had estate cars and a couple of Rovers. I didn’t like any of them – they all made me feel ill when I rode in them.

My grandmother used to hand out barley sugars on long journeys, but mostly I disliked them because they reminded me of car travel and feeling sick.

The best parts of a long journey were the stops, when I could get fresh air and walk about, and tea would be brewed on a primus, using meths.

With all these negative associations from early life, I’ve never grown to like cars. I accept their usefulness but think that we pay a high price for this.

Roads are now so busy and dangerous that children’s freedom to roam is restricted. They add to the noise of our existence. They fill the atmosphere with pollutants and greenhouse gases. In many ways they do not enhance our lives. Front gardens being paved over for them mean loss of green space around us. Motorways have carved ugly wounds through many stretches of our countryside. They are not a pretty sight, parked everywhere you look – row upon row of cars as far as you can see.

As a child I was taught never to cross a road near a parked car! If you minded that advice now, you’ d never be able to leave your side of the street!

I never wanted to learn to drive, but was persuaded into it by my husband when our children were small. I took 2 years to learn and 2 goes at the test before I passed, and hated every moment I was behind the wheel in the 15 years that I suffered it. When I eventually gave it up I breathed a huge sigh of relief and haven’t missed it one bit. I was always nervous on  the roads, and often slept badly the night before I had to drive somewhere.

In fact the only pleasure I got from driving was in refusing to get annoyed with other motorists. I never used my horn aggressively and always let people in when there were traffic queues. If somebody cut me up, I smiled at them, I enjoyed stopping at crossings for pedestrians, and letting buses move out from stops.

Programmes like Top  Gear really irritate me, as do men who rave about cars. (I am almost as annoyed by wine enthusiasts!)

Our car spends most days on the driveway and does one or two journeys a week, none of them short hops. For these we both walk or bike. We get it serviced annually and it runs well, but it’s never washed or polished, nobody bothers to clean the inside of it and it has a dent in the side at the back (hubby did that, not me).

It’s just a machine to get us places, and whilst I admit that it would sometimes be inconvenient without it, I am not fond of it.

I seemed to grow out of the travel sickness in my teens, but that had no effect on my attitude to cars. I always prefer train travel- so civilised, and you can read a book comfortably en route. Trying to read in a car gives me a slight headache, so car travel is really boring.

Cars kill and squash so much wildlife that I have to hate them for that alone, because I love wild creatures and mourn any needless deaths.

Cars go too fast in the UK. We should lower the speed limit, for safety and for environmental reasons. And I think any household with more than 2 cars should pay a hefty additional tax for the wear and tear on the roads and the detrimental effect on the environment they represent.

My father loved driving and was good at it, but I did not really get on with him, so maybe part of my antipathy for cars has its roots in my difficulties with him.

I have never been able to appreciate the joys of motoring. My grandparents used to simply enjoy a ride out in the countryside, but I could never see the attraction. Riding a horse – yes, but not bombing along in a car, looking at nature, rather than being a part of it.

I have never understood the pleasure in sitting in a car overlooking a view, either, or going anywhere merely to sit in the car once you’ve arrived.

Cars have their uses, but I cannot love them.


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