I am that soldier.
I managed to forget to renew my driving licence years and years ago. If you’re without one for over ten years, you have to get driving lessons again and do the test. Arrgh!
I think I’ve lost my nerve for driving. I don’t know if I could go through all the palaver of lessons and a test again. I’m not the spring chicken that I was at 18 when I first took to the wheel, seeing it as a ticket to freedom. Now, I’m glad of the bus, particularly when it’s free.
I don’t know why the bus is sometimes free. The driver often waves you on. On social media, some say it happens when the machine for the Leap card doesn’t work.
The Labour Party has been talking about free public transport as a way of sustainable travelling. Who wouldn’t embrace free travel? That it exists for pensioners is a source of great joy.
People over 66 go up to Dublin to meet a friend for lunch and travel home that same day without any great expenditure. What’s not to like?
On the recent Bank Holiday Monday, I was a fish out of water as I marvelled at how just about every need is catered for in the retail park I found myself in - driven there by my brother. I was in search of large ceramic pots for the garden. Now, I was hardly going to put them on my back and cycle home. A bus wouldn’t have been any good either. A car was a must.
East Gate Retail Park in Little Island, which has a staggering 175,000 square feet of retail accommodation and “benefits from ample surface car parking” is the kind of place I used to think would make me seethe. All that unnecessary consumerism. The banality of spending hours in such a place on a day off work. (Wouldn’t you be better off taking a walk in the woods?)
But no. I’ve joined the ranks of the householder and suddenly, retail parks offer sustenance to my needs. Or should I say, ‘wants’? Because you don’t actually need all the gizmos and goods on offer. That bubblegum-coloured coffee table set (in shiny pink or yellow) now seems a travesty. But at the time, deep within one of the huge shopping units, it was enticing.
If you could re-imagine your living room in 1950s style retro decor, the bright little tables just might work. I’m so glad I didn’t make that purchase now. Retro might be so over. (I don’t actually know the fashion in interior decor. It’s quite enough to have to keep on top of the jungle that was my garden until I hired some help.)
In the end, I bought a few pillows and a big black ceramic pot with a terracotta-coloured rim. I had to wheel the pot out on an open trolley and the good people who design retail parks had the foresight to ensure there are no steps or uneven surfaces as you make your way from outlet to car. Otherwise, my black pot would have ended up in smithereens.
After that, we stopped in town as I had my eye on a couple of even bigger pots in Homesense. The brother managed to find parking space on the Grand Parade. This allowed me to cart the heavy pots on a trolley, using the lift in the store that goes down to ground level (again with no steps.)
There really is little incentive to abandon cars. They are here to stay. But just as retrofitting is for the rich, so too are environmentally friendly electric cars. There is a need to make the electric car more affordable.
And how are people to charge them if they don’t have a garage or the space to do so?
My foray to the retail park won’t, I hope, be one of many. But as long as people want to shop, out of town, those gas guzzlers will remain in business. But do take the bus to town instead of the car. It might be free!