RIP Keith II 2003-2014

Our beloved car ‘Keith II’ broke down this weekend and I think that in all probability it’s terminal. The phrase “blown turbo” sent a chill down my spine and a subsequent look on the internet where fellow Citroen owners shared their tales of similar events and how much it cost to sort it all out led me to this conclusion. Our car is of a certain age and the chances are that it won’t be financially sensible to try and replace so as of yesterday we are officially a carless family.

Rather pathetically at first I felt embarrassment about this state of affairs – our boys go to schools where parents seemingly change cars every month, 4x4s aplenty, convertibles and some parents there even have different cars for specific occasions – a parent of one of my of son’s friends at one point had four cars: “Wilf, if it’s the school run then we’re taking the 1986 VW Golf Cabriolet!” There were times when I felt I was letting the schools down by turning up (on the very rare occasions that I did travel to school in the car) in our battered, paint damaged, one lock not working, fan belt squeaking Citroen Xsara Picasso.*

It is a much loved and much used car though not so used these days and this is where I’m going to be terribly un-British and be optimistic about the broken turbo. I want to turn this negative event into a positive one and maybe see it as a way of changing not only my lifestyle but that of my family’s too.

The question my wife and I put to ourselves last night was do we need a car? In my old life – that’s another story which I’m not brave enough to write about just yet – I was a commuter and I drove to work every single day and after work having sat down on my sofa I’d invariably get called in to deal with emergencies back at work. I’d visit projects all over the south west of England and I got the chance to go and sit in Police interview rooms in stations throughout Somerset. Frankly I’m amazed the car lasted as long as it did.

My life has changed in the last two years, I now work within walking distance of my house and we use the car mostly for shopping and getting the boys to activities that mainly take place within walking or cycling distance. Okay we have the odd day trip out but for all that, is it worth having to payout for all the expenses that having a car entails? Road tax, insurance, fuel oh and we also have to find money to pay for a car parking permit so we can actually park outside our house and the cost of that is rising by 25% next month.

Do we need a car?

The thought of not having a car really scares me, will we lose our independence, will we say we’re okay managing without one and then be on the phone every other day to my in-laws asking “Is there any chance of borrowing your car again?” Will we ever get to Studland again, see our friends in Chichester? Will we be able to go on holiday ever again?!?!

I know, I’m being pathetic and worrying too much, of course we will be fine and we will manage. It’s going to be tough getting used to but the reality is that a friend had sown the seeds of this discussion already when she asked us recently why we had a car as it just sat in the car park every single day. Whilst it’s nice that the lower mileage over the last few years has seen a nice decline in our insurance costs I’m not sure that alone is reason enough to keep a car.

We can hire a car for those weekends away and we get a discount on car hire too via our employer in Dorchester which is good, we can get our shopping delivered and we have a Friends and Family railcard that is a bit underused at the moment – these are all positive things that we can actively do in the absence of a car.

So this evening we will be walking to cricket, Google Maps has told me it’s a twenty two minute walk from our house to Dorchester Cricket Club and what I’m asking myself is that shouldn’t we have been doing that all along? It’s lovely to be able to jump in the card and be there in five minutes but a twenty minute walk isn’t going to do any of us any harm and this is the change of lifestyle that I know we need to consider.

I’m overweight, have been for years and (To quote the Pet Shop Boys) when I look back upon my life I do wonder when I got lazy and when I decided that the car would be used for even the shortest journeys.** Was it gradual? Did I suddenly decide that I’d go without those crisps I needed*** if I couldn’t go in the car to get them? Why not use the bikes to get the boys to basketball training?

Frankly I’m a (non) walking cliché and yes it’s going to be difficult adjusting to life without a car but when I take a long hard look at myself then I know that I need to do this and maybe I am just putting a positive spin on things so I won’t break down in tears, whilst throwing myself at the bonnet of the car wailing about the unfairness of it all but I know in my heart of hearts that I need to do this.

That all said if anybody reading this wants to donate a car to me or the cost of repairs on Keith II then I’m not too proud to accept charity.

* Now being used by Citroen as an advertising slogan.
**Okay only one bit of that was a direct Pet Shop Boys quote.
*** That’s right, needed.

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