Here’s the thing: I hate driving.
Cass’s blog, written in Aug 2017, with Jonathan’s comments in manly blue, and Cass’s rebuttals in lady-like pink. (see also Blog 20, London or bust!)
It’s not very emancipated, is it? What was the point of all those admirable women, (the QUEEN, for heaven’s sake, driving – and fixing – trucks in the second world war)…
…if I, at my age (don’t go there, JH But… *pouts* these are the annual six weeks between our birthdays when I rejoice in being a year younger than you!), find that the blood is pounding in my ears and I am hyperventilating at the prospect of starting up a car.
I’m not even talking about driving in London, because I don’t do that at all anymore, despite the fact that I actually learned to drive there. In my very first lesson, I drove up Finchley Road in a weekday rush hour, so, you know, it’s been done. I think the key is that I learned late, whereas almost everyone else I know was champing at the bit by their 17th birthday and so, young and fearless, they advanced from conscious incompetence to unconscious competence (I learned that expression on a management course once). Took me a while to figure that out – a sure sign of inconscious discompetence. What he said.
Aside: management courses. What were THEY about? Are they still happening? My previous employers must have paid tens of thousands of pounds to have us playing charades at 8am in a built-for-purpose training centre.
My taxi driver, when he dropped me there from the train station, asked me what on earth I’d been done for, because it looked so much like a penitentiary. It was three days of obligatory work-hard, play-hard, marketing-speak nonsense, alongside people I already liked and worked well with, so what the true purpose was, I never understood. And then we all had three days of actual work to catch up on. I can imagine! This was PR in London in the eighties – champagne doesn’t drink itself! You make me mad, boy!
Anyway, I just didn’t have that hunger for driving and didn’t think it was important – I’d lived in London since I was six and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the tube so it just didn’t cross my mind. It was only when I was in the aforementioned career job and a sudden promotion came with a company car that it became appealing (I’m fully aware of the venality!), and I booked myself a series of lessons with a nice man called Cecil. Even so, I never looked forward to those lessons; because I was working, they had to be after work and at weekends, and I rather resented them. I stuck at it because I didn’t want to fail – ah, and there you probably have it (stream of consciousness writing, you see). I didn’t want to fail but I didn’t want to drive either. I’ve been wondering what the issue was for, like, decades! Wow! What a twisted, issue-ridden gal you are. Me? *swats at imaginary flying creatures*
Ironically, I loved my first car, a zippy little Peugeot 205 GTI which was perfect for me.
I drove it back from work to my flat that first day (before parking restrictions existed in residential areas) and while it kangarooed uncontrollably in 2nd gear (particularly embarrassing when you’re crossing Oxford St) I felt it was a friend. However, I couldn’t drive to work because there was nowhere to park and I didn’t take it out, obviously, if alcohol was involved (is it ever not?) so the poor thing languished on the street until JH came back from Australia and it went with him to Somerset. I’m sure it was happier. On a farm, with a loving family, and lots of other cars to play with.
Hardly ever driving meant that gradually I just stopped (and lost my confidence along the way); by the time we left London in 2011, I hadn’t driven in about 10 years, and company cars were a long distant memory. So Jonathan took on the driving, even all the way to Spain, in our old VW banger and I paid my penance by having all our stuff at my feet, including the dogs’ food and bowls, so that the entire back seat could be left down for the dogs to roam and be comfortable. Dog owners are idiotic, clearly, but we come from a place of love and daffiness wasn’t just me, y’know. As mentioned in a previous blog, that car had no air-con and no radio/music system so the journey was an infernal business that did nothing to recommend driving to me.
However, we now live half the year in rural Spain, so I drive because I have to. It’s a perfectly easy walk to the village in fact, but not when it’s a million degrees – and the walk back is uphill and you’re carrying shopping Aw! My wee beast of burden that is, indeed, what they call me. The car isn’t ideal in a million degrees either to be honest; I often drive down the mountain steering with just my fingernails because the car has been parked in full sun all day and I can’t touch any surfaces. Also: legs in shorts and boiling hot leather seats. Ouchy. It’s one of those things you start to do automatically: always look for shade to park in.
Driving to and around the village is a piece of cake really, even for me, and I enjoy the way that people interact, whether in cars or on foot. People will toot a Hello when they recognise our car (which, at first, the Londoner in me heard as “Get out of the ****ing way!” and I tried to oblige) and no-one’s ever in a hurry – drivers going in opposite directions will stop on the road and have a good old chat, whether or not there are others stuck behind them. Everyone does it, so it would be the height of rudeness to be impatient, and in any case, now I do it too! When in Rome, right? Just don’t do it on the Finchley Road. “G’Day, mate. Crocodile Dundee, I’m in town for a couple of weeks; probably see you around.” I’m not sure everyone will get it, but I do That’s all that matters. Thank you, nurse.
The problem starts when I come up against people who are in a hurry, or lots of traffic, which happens when I drive down the mountain road (properly mountainously winding) towards the town. I don’t feel so kindly inclined towards my fellow man when he’s tailgating me. THAT’S when the blood starts pounding in my ears. *See Stephen Spielberg’s DUEL.
On a serious note, I do feel rather defective in this; I feel less of an adult, less competent (extremely consciously) and generally a bit pathetic. It makes the return to London’s public transport system, its parks, and my own two feet something of a pleasure. However, it only takes one unavoidable rush hour tube ride with my face in someone’s armpit to make me long for the clunk of the car door, and starting up that engine. Never satisfied, am I? Except in love, obviously. Obviously! Obviously (me: last word freak).