I have an end-of-year confession to make: I’ve become a motorist. For the first time in my life I have bought an old lump of metal with four wheels.
It’s not the first vehicle I’ve ever owned. About ten years ago when my right knee conked out on me I got my motorcycle licence and bought a motorbike enabling me to charge about with my crutches bungeed on the pillion. Then when my knee clunked back into pedalling order I sold it and with happy relief resumed long-winded cycling again. Buying a motorbike was a mild act of desperation (quite a fun one though!) brought about by forced necessity. A different form of necessity has spurred me into acquiring the vehicle I have today. I live in a valley with every road out leading up a steep winding country lane with blind corners and big cars (mostly domesticated armoured tanks with blacked-out windows, matching Labradors and Sainsburys shopping bags) charging hell-for-leather up your rear. The nearest shops, doctor and railway station is just under 5 miles away. I’ve been merrily cycling these roads all my life despite finding them faster and busier by the year. And this past summer and autumn I’ve been cycling up and down them joyfully ad infinitum with Molly strapped on board. But now comes winter and dark icy days and although I’m happy to risk my life and limb whatever the hour or the season, I’m not so keen to risk Molly’s. (I’ve had a bit too many drivers skidding a bit too close).So as I seem to enjoy lying outside beneath flimsy strips of fabric I’ve bought the nearest thing to a glorified tent on wheels: a camper van. Although I don’t feel very pleased that I’ve finally relented and bought something that purports to kill the world, I feel better when I suddenly realise I haven’t used it for a month. What’s more, Gary says we can run it on chip fat so at least it will smell nice. And Gary’s another reason why we’ve got the camper: he’s not too smitten by cycling (you can see we make a fine compatible pair) – I think I put him off cycling by dragging him around New Zealand by bike during some of its worst weather on record – I thought it was lovely! So I’ve had to give in (though not without a lot of huffing and puffing) so that when we all have to go somewhere together quite far away we all go in the van – with me sometimes giving chase on my bike.
Despite this lapse into motordom, my bike is still my top daily transport of choice. The camper now chugs into action when I can see no other way to get to where Molly and me and Gary need to go. But for most of the time the camper acts as a very effective bike shed, workshop, office, playroom, spare room, large cupboard, cat kennel (the neighbour’s cat seems to keep locking itself inside), tool shed, obstacle course, climbing frame (there’s a mini ladder up the back) and, when I leave the windows open all night during a small monsoon, paddling pool.
Right, that’s enough sitting down here writing about vehicles. I’m off for a cycle. Come on Molly, on with your bike boots. We’re off for a breezy blow.