Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I was out for lunch with my work mates today. My friend C was telling us all about the 12 resolutions she'd set herself at the beginning of the year, and those she's yet to complete. Dinner at the Ivy, swimming outside, going to a new country. That sort of thing. Genuinely inspiring stuff, and the kind of thing I'm way too cynical to do at New Year. But perhaps my cynicism is starting to wane. I have my own goals I want to achieve. Primarily, learning to drive.
Yes, that's right. I can't drive.
Cue faux-stunned silence from my colleagues. "How can you not have learnt to drive?!" was the incredulous response from T, and it was precisely the kind of response I'd expected from him, so I brushed it off dismissively, and went on to say simply that it's one of my ambitions before I'm 30. Not that I'm the kind of person who thinks life ends at 30...
But how come I didn't learn at 17 like most others round the table? Well, several reasons. The main being that my family didn't have a car for me to learn on when I was 17. We didn't have a lot of money back then. My dad flat refused to let me touch his car. And they couldn't really afford lessons anyway, especially with my university expenses just around the corner. What little money I earnt from my Saturday job went on records and going out. And to be quite honest, having been involved in a very nasty motorway smash in my teens had rather put me off getting behind the wheel of a huge metallic death machine capable of killing anyone who decided to get in the way.
That's usually what I tell people. Along with a wry "...and some of us were born to be driven." But there is more. Those were fine excuses, but there was something deeper than that, something I rarely, if ever, talk about. And oddly enough, it was borne out of a lecture my school headmaster gave one assembly. As I have mentioned here, I never really got on with school, but I liked a lot of the teachers, and our head certainly commanded my considerable respect. The lecture was on global warning and the greenhouse effect. This must've been around 1996, when the scientific evidence was beginning show how human activity was affecting the environment, and the dire consequences that we're only now coming to terms with. And he said something that's stuck with me for over a decade.
If we want to stop global warning, then everyone single one of you in this room has to live without driving a car. It's as simple as that.
And perhaps it was an overly simplistic argument. But the central gist, that to stop global warming we have to make sacrifices, is bang on. So that is what I've tried to do. And up to now, I've managed ok. I try not to be smug about it, especially as I've been very fortunate. I've lived in Watford, Nottingham and London, all blessed with good public transport networks. I've had jobs that haven't required me to drive. I've had eternally patient friends, family and girlfriends who've helped me out. And I like walking. And as for the barbs, well, I don't really care too much what other people think. Especially not on something like that.
But as with so much in life, I've reached the crunch point between ideology and reality. I feel this is something I need to achieve and get out of the way. It is, as I've been told many times, a life skill. Something you need to be able to do. But part of me, the ideological teenager, is pissed off at myself for giving in. So I call it a compromise. I will learn, but I don't need a car in London. I can hire one for holidays, yeah, that's cool. And yet I know that if I leave the capital for the real world beyond the M25, I will almost certainly succumb. Because that's the way it is. Like everyone else, I'll have to drive to my job to earn money to put food on the table. And this to me seems symptomatic of the complete inability we have as a species to grasp this enormous impending disaster that'll put this week's money worries into perspective once the crops start to fail and we have nothing to eat.
Sorry for being depressing. It's a pretty depressing subject. I guess you could watch Top Gear. That's a bit more entertaining.
Business as usual.
1. REM - Drive
2. Radiohead - Airbag
3. Neon Neon - Dream Cars
4. Motorhead - Motorhead
5. DJ Shadow - Blood On The Motorway
6. Boards Of Canada - 84 Pontiac Dream
7. Kenickie - In Your Car
8. Blur - He Thought Of Cars
9. Death Cab For Cutie - Passenger Seat
10. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Stop
Happy happy happy... I'll let you know how I get on.
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