We Loved the Effort

Or, how we once lived perambulatory for a year and learned to love the bus (and online grocery delivery).

So…  we’ve bought a car.

There. I said it.

I know this post is a while in coming – we bought the car a few weeks ago – but it’s been hard to figure out the right way to put it out there.  I hinted earlier that our wee experiment was coming to an end.  In our minds, somewhat prematurely, thanks to the small matter of a few major earthquakes – in all honesty I’ve been actively looking for another car since a few weeks after the major earthquake on February 22.  As it turned out, we managed to last until our 12 months was up but more through chance than design.  We had the ever-generous Uncle Puff living with us after leaving his place in hard-hit Redcliffs, and he placed his car at our disposal until we were able to get our own one again.

Even that was a good opportunity to reflect on the nature of car ownership.  Three adults and one Bobbin of 35 months and counting (not only that but talking back, negotiating and planning holidays away from us too) living together – we do not all need our own cars.  Even though the three of us live and work quite different schedules, only having one vehicle was more than enough to make our lives a little easier.  The loss of car-free credibility offset by the penitence of being seen in the street-cred-diminishing, lemon yellow, ‘flying custard square.’*

But nothing’s ever perfect or rather, things are perfectly imperfect and we should be proud of what we’ve achieved.  I know that I’m so proud of Lizzie and Seraphine for loving the effort, through gritted teeth sometimes.  (You really should come and do the incredibly steep walk that Lizzie would do morning and night, in all weather, with a 10kg bobbin in a backpack complete with lunch, spare clothes, nappies etc., her own lunch and laptop – all in her work (read: not great for walking in) gear.  Not only was she single-handedly defying convenience she was sending it to it’s room for Time Out and no supper.  I love you, Peedie Mitten.

Our year of living (solely) perambulatory has come to an end but I do love the bus.  And using Shanks Pony, and I’m not so scared of walking up hills.  Here we are, no longer car-free with child, but also no longer unthinkingly beholden to Convenience either.  At least we’d like to think so.  But reflecting on my first month with a new car – it’s been something of an orgy of convenience, albeit a mindful one – damn I’m loving having a car again!

And with that exclamation point, *poof* goes whatever remaining car-free credibility we had.

So is this the end of Tyranny of Convenience?  No way.  You’ll never guess what we’ve just gone and done.  Buying a car was only the tip of the iceberg.

Oh dearie me, we’ve gone and bought a house.

* Actually, in all honesty, we love the flying custard square.

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Getting Munted and the Principles of Permaculture Pt. 1 – Chunder Road

So what about the much-hyped camping-on-the-farm holiday you ask?  Well I’m glad you did because it was adventure of high renown from start to finish.

First, the disclaimers.  We cheated a little bit over the break.  While the almost entire House of Davidson was staying with us we felt we needed to have some form of transport and particularly if we wanted to head up to the farm for a spot of ‘camping’ – more about that later.

So with the tremendous support of Granny and Grandad we hired a car for a few weeks.  Don’t hate us for our loose commitment!

We always talked about how not owning a car would save us money that we could potentially use to hire one when the need arose.  And it’s true and I’m glad we did.  End of disclaimer.

So.  We ended up hiring the cheapest station wagon we could find – it was little more than a glorified hatchback and there was no way we could fit Aunty Taffy and Brad so our poor couch-surfing Queenslanders had to catch a bus to Blenheim through some of the windiest hill climbs in the whole island – the infamous Hundalees – not-so-affectionately known as the ‘Chundalees’ as poor Aunty Taffy found out.

The rest of us stacked in 4 adults, a bouncing bobbin in her carseat and the bootspace was jam packed, floor to ceiling with two tents, a mattress, bedding and a chilly bin full of food.  Oh and a 5 kg bag of flour.  There was absolutely NO room for the guitar, or the camping oven and table (which were only really for fun anyway seeing as we were camping by a house).  The back windows looked like the car had been vacuum sealed – everything was squished into the corners filling up every available space.  Somehow Elizabeth managed to fold herself in two to get into the back seat with Granny Margaret.

Things were going swimmingly until the wee bear fell asleep at the bottom of the Lewis Pass, which gets rather windy itself, before waking up at the top and vomiting her poor little tum out.  She’s only thrown up in cars twice and both times it was from falling asleep on windy stretches.  She was so good though, as her mother managed to contain most of it somehow (my eyes were firmly on the road) and the car itself survived without a direct hit.  We pulled in at Maruia Springs down the bottom to clean up and get some fresh air.  And become sand-fly bait.

Now Maruia Springs is an interesting place.  I’ve stayed there and camped there.  Pulled in for a cold one and played pool there.  It’s changed over the years from a sort of road house pub with hot pools into a pseudo-Japanese health resort with chalets.  It’s still an incredibly beautiful location and the Japanese-style baths are great.  I’ve always preferred the hot pools at Maruia to Hanmer Springs as the setting was just amazing – they look out onto a mountain river with steep native forest on the other side, it was a bit smaller and quieter and generally less touristy.  Oh how things change.

The first things we notice are what Uncle Puff coined as ‘no-signs’.  Lots of verboten everywhere.  No this, no that.  No, we were not allowed to use the toilets.  The whole entrance has been redesigned – all windows are gone and there’s some sort of design-award-ready trendy wood panelling that makes the whole entrance look intimidating and unwelcome.  You can’t see in and you don’t really know what they’re even offering as most of the signage is dedicated to telling you what they’re NOT offering.  Yikes.  Maybe living in a perpetual cloud of ferociously biting insects has made misanthropes of them all.  We got cleaned up using our own water and towels and got the hell out of Dodge.  Goodbye Maruia Springs.  I miss you.

The rest of the trip was tough.  Hot and tiring and Seraphine was over it.  She’s still not great on these long car journeys.

The flooding that had previously closed the Pass was still evident near Springs Junction with the road down to one lane in places and further up the road we stopped at Maruia Falls to marvel at the swollen river hurling itself over the shelf in an angry tide.  Great stuff!

The sun was definitely on the downward slide as we took the turn-off to St Arnaud and headed for Tophouse.  Once again the journey had taken most of the day and we still weren’t there yet.  But as the golden hour approached and the  trees were thick with cicadas, we saw the farmhouse complete with Aunty Niki and Uncle Ewan waving from the verandah as we rolled up to the gates of… Muntanui!

To be continued…

Car-free in an earthquake?

Well, of the 25 days since ‘the big one’ we’ve had the use of a car for over 2 weeks, thanks to Kate Kate who has been away for most of the time and left us her car to use.

It’s HARD!  I’m finding all this cheating is making me weak.  Although I did really enjoy the walk up the hill last night in glorious setting sunshine with a warm nor’west breeze in my face.

I’m really missing having a car.  It made it much easier to visit Grilly after the earthquake to check on her instead of the epic bus journey involved.  But I suppose I’m just really appreciating having the use of one.  I’m still determined to be car-free for a year but it has certainly made me mindful of enjoying driving (and convenience) while I can.

Anyway, blah blah.  In the immortal words of Garfield “I’ll be funny again tomorrow, I promise.”

The Long, Hard Goodbye – Part II

… So now there is an empty space outside our house where the car used to be.

No, the earth hasn’t opened up and swallowed it as has happened elsewhere in Christchurch.

We’ve finally done it.  The last apron string has been cut and the temptation removed.  The Peej is gone.

I hadn’t actually driven her since that fateful day of cheating that seems so long ago.  It has actually been quite easy not to just jump in the car and head off for Indian takeaways these past few months.  Maybe because I forgot to regularly start her and the battery has died.  Oh well.  Just goes to show I’m telling the truth.

Since then we have used a car on a couple of occasions – once when one of our lovely friends went away for a week (most of the time it sat outside our house) and the other day when the gas bottles finally ran out.  At night. As we were cooking.  As they do.  And a lesson for our future selves – hardly anywhere refills gas bottles at night.

But sometime, a little over a week ago, a neigbour from round the corner asked about the car.  A couple more conversations and the next thing I was filling out change of ownership papers and taking my thirty pieces of silver (and some wild pork).  Someone who could do the repair work themselves was going to get a great little car.  She was the Bobbin’s first car and she had the rusks and flapjack crumbs to prove it.  We’ll miss her.

Oh well, we’re up to 4 months of living car free and she’s off to a new life with 14 pig dogs and a hunter.  She should probably start a blog of her own.

Mmmm, wild pork…

Falling back on the wagon or Backsliding or I only smoke when I drink

Dirty rotten cheating and my just desserts.

Go on, one last hit.

One last run in the car to do a few errands across town.  And it was raining too.  Hmmm, excuses are easy to come up with and no-one’s gonna quibble over needing to travel to various distant destinations around the city before starting work  in order to make enough money to house, feed and clothe my young family.  Are they?

So, that settled, I headed off in the Peej to perform said errands.  Namely returning the hired baby car seat to Plunket – shan’t be needing that anymore – and dropping off some of Elizabeth’s famous home-baked chocolate brownie to our amazing and dedicated travel agent John who got us through our volcanic blues.

This required driving through the rain around the city all the while acutely aware that this could be the last time I drive Peej.  I really enjoyed it.  I love driving, dammit and there’s nothing so satisfying as driving in a warm, dry car while the rain lashes down outside, elbowed aside by the Peej’s wipers.  I’ll give this to her, she doesn’t leak.

Arriving at work I realised I needed to park Peej off the road as the last thing we need is a parting gift from the parking wardens to the tune of $200 for not displaying a current WOF sticker.  I snaffled one of the last two parks in the $6 all-day park near my office (another expense we can kiss goodbye to along with the car seat!)

All day sitting at my desk looking out at the wild weather in the beautiful autumnal park I work next to, I was warmed subtly by the secret knowledge that I was going to be driving home – alone, warm and dry – master of my own destiny, captain of the ship.  No walk to and from buses, no waiting in the cold at the bus stop.  A guilty little pleasure.

That night we were having a rare night out in Christchurch, a sort of late anniversary drink at some good friends’ Irish session night.  Of the hand-countable nights out we’ve had since Seraphine was born none of them have been into the ‘bright lights’ of Christchurch, choosing instead to walk down the hill into the fabulousness that is Lyttelton.  This was to be the second of our back-slides today – our wonderful babysitter Fairy Godmother Kate was lending us her car as we weren’t going out for long and she needed to be relieved by 10pm.  The bus ride is 30-40 minutes each way which would take an hour out of our night out (although depends on your perception of what is important – like Elizabeth’s walk to and from pre-school – a subject we’ll be returning to).

I was thinking about all this as I trudged up the hill to home after work through the pouring rain with my umbrella, marvelling at the storm water rushing downhill through the gutters – you never really get the same sense of the sheer volume of water from rain in the flat city next door, there’s not many slopes to see the run-off really get going.  Lyttelton is all slope.  Stevenson’s Steep was literally a waterfall and there was what looked like a miniature standing wave being created by an obstruction in the gutter.  Cool, I thought, another good reason for not having a car, you never get to see this stuff when you’re-

Wait a minute.

So there you go, that’s what I deserve for falling off/on the wagon.  Funny thing is it’s only been two weeks and already I’m used to not taking the car.  And how about this rain?

Epilogue

Wanted: a good home for abandoned 1983 Toyota Sprinter

OK.  So he leaves me in this all day car park.  It’s outdoors but at least it shows he cares.  Plenty of other cars to talk to.

But it’s dark now.  And cold, and all the other cars have gone home.  There’s some drunk people cutting through the car park over there.  Did I mention it’s dark?

I’d like to go home now.  It’s getting late and the clampers come out after dark…