For six years now I’ve been a member of the great unautomobiled masses. It hasn’t been so bad but living on the outskirts of London (as I do) there have always been minor inconveniences: having to plan late nights in London, having to think twice about what to buy in Tescos because I might not be able to carry it home etc.
And then I got a new job.
Which was fine. It was further away but I could commute. The trains in my corner of south-west London are a joy being both punctual and clean.
But as Alan Clark pointed out trains never start from where you want to start and never take you where you want to go.
(Actually, in my case that’s not quite true - at one end of the journey the station is nearer than where I can park but that’s another story.)
The real problem was time. Even with the trains running perfectly my commute would take an hour and a bit. The equivalent car journey would normally take 40 minutes and sometimes as little as 20.
Worse still, there was no train or bus at all that could get me to work on time on a Sunday. I quickly tired of taking taxis.
So, I did some sums and drew up a budget. And then threw it away. Sure it would end up a bit more expensive but (apart from the time-saving) it would give me something else. Call it freedom, call it responsibility - but it would be that whole adventure (even the boring and expensive bits) of owning a car: buying insurance, getting it serviced, deciding for myself when to go, seeing what repairs/modifications I could do myself, going for a drive, getting lost…
So, a car it was.
I recently took the DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Stavanger. It takes over 20 hours, and is quite expensive. Even the bars on board charge Norwegian instead of British beer prices. But it’s good fun, the accomodation is pleasant, and there is even a cheesy live band.
But the route is closing at the end of August. According to one of the crew, it’s because of Rising Fuel Prices. Another factor is that the ship has Norwegian and British crew, who are more expensive than Polish crew. There is a vague hope that another company will buy the ship and continue the service, otherwise there will be no ferry from the UK to Norway (except possibly from the north of Scotland). Car drivers could fly and rent, but Norway is a great place to explore in your motor home or on your motor bike. You’ll have to go via Denmark instead.