Why I No Longer Drive

Last night, on the way to Walkford, in the beam of the car’s headlights, I saw my first forest deer.  They were rather small.  Maybe females, maybe fawns, I am not sure.  It seems they only emerge into view at night.

We had an enjoyable time with Helen and her friend Pete at the quiz night, finally being placed firmly in the middle of a fairly large field containing some apparently professional players.  In Jackie’s words we were so mediocre as to warrant neither one of the cash prizes for the first three, nor of  the two bottom booby chocolates.  Helen says we weren’t mediocre, it’s just that some of the others were especially good that night.  Well, that’s a relief.  Never mind, they served Tanglewood bitter and Peroni on draft, so who really cares.

This morning, it being a Mordred (see 12th July) day, I walked down to the village shop to collect my copy of The Independent; continuing on to Football Field, and back home by the circular route via Shave Wood and London Minstead.  Domesticated horses in the fields were jacketed as a protection against the weather.  Forest ponies, being made of stronger stuff, had only their rough-coated hides for the purpose.

In Minstead I met and had a long conversation with Gladys and Dave who live on the top floor of the Lodge.  They own their flat but need to sell it, because Dave can no longer drive and Gladys doesn’t like to.  They were friends of our owners and know our flat well.  They have occupied the building for twenty four years.

I don’t drive either.  Perhaps twenty years ago, I visited a good cafe in Islington for lunch on my way to my consultancy at the now closed adoption society, Parents for Children.  Deep in The Times crossword, I was vaguely aware of a male figure taking a seat at a table adjacent to mine.  I was completely unaware of his departure a very short time afterwards.  Reaching for my brief case which I had placed on the floor beside me, I was completely unaware of that too.  It was gone.  After I had looked all around me, it gradually dawned on me that it had been nicked.  It was the proprietor who told me of the man’s rapid departure.

I had done what no sensible person ever does.  I had everything in that brief case: my wallet, cheque book, mobile phone, books, favourite pipe, lighter, and just about everything else except my biro and copy of The Times.  I couldn’t phone to cancel the cards.  I couldn’t pay for the meal.  Fortunately the cafe staff helped me out with coins for a wall phone and didn’t take even a contribution for the food.  I did, of course, return the money soon afterwards.  I reported the theft at Islington police station, knowing full well I would not see my belongings again.  The system, however, is that you must waste your and police time to provide a crime number for the insurance company.

One item in the wallet had been my driving licence.  I duly collected a form for a replacement from Newark post office, filled it in, wrote out the cheque and stuck it in my ‘to do’ tray.  This was because I needed a photograph for the new style licence to replace my old paper one which had needed no picture.  Several years later I came across this paperwork and managed to get a couple of photographs out of a machine, this being no mean feat in itself.  Of course, by then the £2.50 or so cheque I had written probably wouldn’t have been sufficient.  So I put it all back in the tray for several more years, whilst I got around to checking.  It could be there still.

Not driving was really no problem during the years I was commuting to London.  I used public transport all week and Jessica drove at the weekends.  This is because I didn’t mind who drove, and she couldn’t bear not to.  It seemed quite a satisfactory arrangement.  After her death and my return to live in Central London a car would have been a liability.  Even running across London was quicker than driving.  Finding somewhere to park was a nightmare, and paying for it exorbitant.  And, of course, with a London address, I was given a senior citizen’s Freedom Pass which meant public transport within all six London Transport zones was free of charge.  And you could get quite a lot of cab journeys for the cost of running a car.

Where we are living now a car is pretty well essential.  But now I have a beautiful chauffeuse who has her own car.

This evening my chauffeuse served up very spicy arrabbiata followed by Sainsbury’s creme brulee.  I finished the Brindisi red and Jackie the Montpierre sauvignon blanc.


  1. I had pickpocket once in Hong Kong. To save taxi cost to the next station I took a metro and lost 10times of the taxi. I was sandwitched by two men, it was only a few seconds, I didn’t know that time but when I arrived to the hotel and found my backpack was open and wallet gone, however my passport was there.
    Since then I am very careful my belongings.

  2. Too bad about the theft. I had my wallet stolen last December so I know what a pain it was. I still don’t have all my cards replaced. I have not driven for almost ten years (by choice). Recently I decided not to renew my driver’s license because they wanted a doctor’s certificate (for diabetes) and I couldn’t be bothered with that.

  3. I can believe it !
    And now, you’re too lazy to be bothered, having your delightful ladies drive you wherever you wish to go armed with your camera/s why would you want to drive?

  4. Next time I think of writing ‘Head Gardener’ I’m going to substitute ‘Beautiful Chauffeuse’.

    It’s the sort of thing a Bond Villain would have.

    I now view the two of you in a different light. 🙂

  5. Ah. The mystery of why you don’t drive will keep me awake with thoughts now … but I definitely relate to the beautiful chauffeuress part, can’t blame you a bit. That reminds me of Julie Andrews.
    It’s definitely hard in your part of the world if you don’t drive. In mine, it’s downright impossible because you can’t even go for a walk (too hot/ too bright / might get shot / people think you’re a freak if you are walking) in the same way as you can there. And you really have to get out and about. So am thinking of that. Thank you for showing me this, I don’t think I had read it – the best thing about all your posts is the snapshot into your life and how I appreciate that and can feel the canter of the forest ponies as you write.

      1. THESE THINGS YOU TELL ME ARE GEMS I NEED MORE! Truly? Julie Andrews huh? She fills me with happiness, she’s got one of those infectious happy genes that makes us all smile doesn’t she? Plus nobody looks better in a bow tie I’m convinced of it. Your Great Aunt Mabel sounds like a fantastic chip off the ole block, the Knights and beyond I say.

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