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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A list of things we’ve learned

Ciaran just insisted, in a charming way, that I go and write a damn blog post.

“Even just a list of things we’ve learned,” he said plaintively.

That’s a tough ask for me, because I’m not very good at learning stuff.

I mean I am good at it, if an authoritative, interesting person tells me what I need to know, preferably with the assistance of books and visual aids. A situation otherwise known as school, I believe.

But learning from personal experience? Oh, that’s hard.

But just for him, because he asked so nicely, I’m going to make a big effort.

So what have we learned from a year of not having a car?

  • Contrary to my own expectations, it was actually harder not having a car in the summer months. I thought it would be tough on cold wet winter mornings, when I had to get up in the dark, wrangle a protesting toddler into her pantechnicon and push her to preschool in driving sleet. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff wasn’t exactly fun. But I’m pretty stoical when it comes to stomping around in unpleasant weather.
  • What was more of a bummer was when the weather got all nice and we wanted to go to the beach for a swim/go camping on the weekend/go for a picnic on the peninsula on a sunny Saturday and we couldn’t, because we didn’t have a car.
  • Even though you save money not having a car, who knows where that money goes? In hindsight, we should have been inspired by the quit smoking exercise, taken the money we would have spent on petrol every week and put it in a high interest savings account/sock under the mattress instead. We didn’t. Oh well!
  • Outings that require more than one bus trip become too hard. Although maybe that’s just us being lazy.
    You gain a new appreciation for your immediate surroundings, because you spend a lot more time there. Instead of driving into town to go out, we just walk down the road. Admittedly we pretty much always did that anyway, because we live in Lyttelton and it is frankly much much nicer than Christchurch, but without a car we became even more ferociously local in our focus.
  • Online supermarket shopping rocks. So fantastic. Quicker, easier and cheaper, even with delivery costs, because you don’t impulse buy. And let’s hear it for automated shopping lists! Unfortunately online shopping is currently not a happening thing in Christchurch post quake, but we want it back. Vehemently.  I should also note that it would be very nice if the supermarkets could sort out some form of recyclable delivery container, because it right gets on my tits when we have made an effort to take our canvas bags to the supermarket, and then I get my groceries delivery in about a bazillion plastic bags. Honestly chaps, you can pack more than two cans of tomatoes in a bag. No really you can. Try it. It will astonish you.  And while you are pondering this amazing revelation, how about considering some reusable, branded crates? Think about it, socially, ecologically and ethically responsible, miles of feel good press releases and happy customers. All for piss all effort. Sounds like a winner to me folks. Why thank you, I will take a small mention in your corporate eco-awards winner’s speech.
  • Major natural disasters are not good times to be without a car. When the earth roars under your feet, the buildings fall down, the roads buckle and all public transport has ground to a halt, it is nice to have the option of climbing in your car and getting the hell out of there.
  • It takes balls/stupidity to be car free with a small child, as there are times when they are sick, in the deepest darkest hour of the night before morning and you too are sick with fear, that you really would like to be able to just get in the car and drive somewhere where nice people in white coats will make it all better.
  • Our friends are the most generous people, and when we have really needed a set of wheels, they have given us theirs. Big thanks especially to the beautiful Kate, who lent us her car in that difficult, frightening post quake period, and made it possible for us to get around our broken town and also to get away to the mountains for a break. Thanks also to Lindon and the flying custard square, which he placed at our disposal as a ‘family car’ with his usual grace and generosity. And thank you to Lauren, Daniel and Clara, who lent us their Demio so we could go on dates, and babysat our little girl into the bargain. You guys are the business and we loves you.
  • I should have got a bike. Although, Lyttelton doesn’t have many down sides, but it’s a bit crap for bikes (assuming you want to just use your bike as a form of transport and not as some form of advanced downhill, off road, neon lycra clad insanity). It’s steep and hilly and the rest of the city is through a tunnel you cannot cycle through (although you can put the bike on the front of the buses and ride through the tunnel that way. Lots of people do). Also did I mention I am lazy? Also I’m too vain to wear a bike helmet. Maybe I will make an effort to get over some of these constraints as I actually really enjoy cycling places.
  • I passionately hate ‘cycling gear’. Really people, is it compulsory to look that bad just because you are riding your bike? In some cities people just wear their normal clothes, you know? Actually this is a total tangent and not something I have learnt as a result of being car free at all. But any excuse to air my utter intolerance for taut nylon bottoms is a good excuse.

Lyttelton – Do Something Beautiful

Well now, it’s June already which for those of us living in Aotearoa means we are entering into Matariki, sometimes referred to as the Maori New Year.   I might post more about Matariki shortly but for now I want to point out that it is a time for reflection, remembrance, connection with family/whanau and new beginnings.  We will make a couple of posts on this theme this month as those of you who have been following our trials and tribulations might have realised that we have passed our 12 month goal of being a car-free family during May.  More on that soon, as well as the end of the experiment… So in the spirit of Matariki I’m reprinting here the following article I wrote for the Lyttelton News – our local newspaper which comes monthly as part of the Akaroa Mail.  It appeared on the front page of the Friday 11th March edition.  Thank you to Margaret Jefferies for inviting me to submit.

Last year Margaret Jefferies of Project Lyttelton sent me a superbly eloquent definition of sustainability: the possibility of life flourishing forever.  In its simplicity it summed up perfectly for me, what I believe is a worthy aspiration for our community.  Inherent in the concept of flourishing are all the ingredients of a life well lived, and a strong community, such as: sustainability, engagement, inclusiveness, meaning,  resilience and well-being.  I like the definition also because there is room for doubt.  The possibility of flourishing.  It’s not a given, it suggests we must take responsibility and approach the goal of sustainability (flourishing) with purpose.  It is possible, there is hope.  How we do it is up to us.  It is in the act of seeking that we may indeed flourish.

Right now, as a community we have been faced with a crisis of major proportions.  We will move through the stages of emergency response, recovery and eventually, revitalisation.  It is how we approach these stages and frame our perspective that determines the quality of the experiences we will have.  You could say that this is the measure of our resilience.  To put it simply, we can choose to see the earthquake either as purely a catastrophe – the end of many things – rebuilding in haste, without vision, walking backwards into the future or we can acknowledge the tragedy and begin to approach it as an opportunity to re-imagine our community and work to create the flourishing Lyttelton of our dreams.  There is no right time for this to happen.  No rules or timeframes, it is up to us, together to work it out.

Lyttelton is resilient.  I know this because we have so far made it through two major earthquakes, the second a genuine disaster for our town, and still, here we are – working together, helping each other, asking questions, talking about the future.  If we are to not only endure and survive but to flourish, we must mix in the best of our resilience with a sustainable approach.  Moving forward in a considered way, with vision, be bold and with nothing less than flourishing as our goal.  And while we are waiting to get on that bus – let’s do something beautiful.

Paying for sex, Seinfeld and the tyranny of … Free Parking

 

Free Parking: sounds like some kind of recreational creative picnic sport

 

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people! It is people! It is people!

In the ‘Good Living’ supplement as part of filthy Christchurch rag The Press the other week was an interesting article on international parking guru Donald Shoup.

Headlined, in one of those sub-editor pun wet dream moments, as ‘Free parking’s true toll’ (I can’t hyperlink to it as it’s pay-to-view only, courtesy of unFairfax so not much point and anyway I’m going to discuss the thing intelligently myself.  And you can visit Mr Shoup’s website above, which is far more useful) the article is reprinted from the Los Angeles Times.  Not sure why I’m telling you that but when I get my serious blog voice on it feels proper to start acknowledging sources.  Actually, one should always acknowledge sources.  Anyway…

Why I’m writing about this is that Donald Shoup struck me as someone who fully grasps the double-edged sword of convenience, right way round of course.  He also gets the counter-intuitive concept of how the most convenient option is often the least helpful.  He’s talking about car parking and the problems it presents to town planning and designing for urban revitalisation.

Now for those of you in danger of nodding off at this stage in a riveting post about parking cars and wondering when the hookers are getting here.  Stay with me.

I’m not sure what I like more about Mr Shoup – being 72 and still riding a bike everywhere or the fact he quotes Seinfeld to illustrate his ideas.  Here’s where we get to paying for sex.  Shoup quotes George Costanza from Seinfeld who likened using a car park building to “going to a prostitute”.

“Why should I pay when, if I apply myself, maybe I could get it for free?”

This line of thinking, in the context of parking, leads to people driving around the block several times waiting for that magical parking space right outside their destination, expending time and fuel in the process.  “Maybe if I go round once more there’ll be a free one this time!”  Shoup argues that when street parking is free or inexpensive as is the case in many towns and cities, that demand soon outstrips supply and people cruising for parks waste time and fuel polluting the air and congesting the streets.  My pet hate is the slow cruise along the line of parked cars, holding up the flow of traffic while searching for a space, usually without the use of indication.  Oh yeah, baby…

Is that one? No... Oh! There! No...

Efforts to revitalise town centres often focus on parking – more of it and cheaper please.  This is very pertinent in Christchurch, a car-centric city.  The central city is constantly under threat from the proliferation of suburban malls with their thousand free car parks above, below and around their monolithic edifices.  These places are veritable Cathedrals of Convenience.  Central city retailers and the City Council are forever racking their brains about how to stop things falling apart, the centre cannot hold etc. etc.  This inevitably rolls around to the retailers bleating at the Council about cars and parking i.e. more and cheaper please.  They even managed to convince the Council (despite international research and evidence to the contrary) to allow cars through previously pedestrian-only inner city malls.  S’funny really, when what the shops really want is more people inside them not cars cruising past looking for parks.

After ‘The Event’ of September 4th last year, there was a considerable drop in the numbers of people visiting the central city.  Not surprising really, even after the cordoned off ‘exclusion zone’ and curfew was lifted, every available space in the media was taken up with images of the ‘catastrophic destruction’ in the central city.  After all a fallen down old building makes for a better lead image or back-drop when doing a live news report than the 50 other ones and entire suburbs behind it that are untouched.  No wonder people were jittery about going there – everything was apt to fall on their heads.  Except for the 99.9% of buildings that were not.  Leading up to Christmas this had retailers crying into their lattes with expected crashing sales figures.  The City Council responded with making all street parking free for a couple of weeks following the major quake and then over the Christmas build-up giving the first 2 hours free in all buildings and street parking.  To me this didn’t seem to make much difference – I noted a lot less cars around and plenty of parking spaces.  I’d wager it wasn’t the cost of parking keeping people away from town.

Est celui-là là ? Non... Oh! La? Non...

Shoup’s work harmonises with plenty of international research that demonstrates the more spaces you open up to cars (either driving or parking) then cars just fill them up again.  It’s just like those ‘awesome’ tax cuts that bribed a change of government in NZ– how much are you noticing that extra $15 dollars per week even a month after you start getting it?  You simply expand your living to absorb the extra ‘dollarspace’.  Hopeless.  No disrespect to the many economist readers of ToC but tax cuts do NOT improve and enhance our quality of life.  Just as cars do not revitalise cities – people do.  He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!

Speaking as someone guilty (now reformed) of cruising around looking for free parking, hoping to hit that little jackpot, I get what Donald Shoup is talking about.  He advocates for ‘fair-market’ pricing on street parking and making Park & Ride and various other options cheaper and more attractive.  Then using the revenue from parking directly for enhancing and revitalising the public space of central cities.  Encourage more walking, cycling and other forms of Active Transport.

And I’d throw in to the mix perhaps not allowing any more soul-destroying suburban malls to be built.  The tyranny of convenience eh?  But that’s another post all in itself.

And by the way, there is no such thing as the Free Parking jackpot in Monopoly.  Look it up.

Tired Old Bastard Blues – A whinge.

Gee I bet that title really reeled you in.

I need a holiday, big time.  Energy levels nearing empty, the Tired Old Bastard gauge is reaching critical.  This was compounded last night during a slightly sad outing for the somewhat-less-than Mighty Lyttelton football team in our last game of the year for the Summer League.  Slightly sad in that our healthy looking squad from the start of the season only managed to turn out 9 players and we required the services of two backpackers who happened to be passing by.

Slightly sad also in that I spent most of my time in the game chasing after younger, fitter, faster guys who I had no hope of catching without resorting to bolas and generally finding the whole experience akin to one of those nightmares where you have to run to or from something and you can’t make your legs move.  This is what happens to you at 35 if you take a fortnight off to recover from the minor whiplash you incurred last time you played.

Remind we why we’re doing this again? I said to myself more than once as I watched the player I was supposed to be marking once again run past me and off into the open pastures of our exposed right flank.  That’s right, it’s meant to be fun.

Football really is a winter game and fun is relative in 28 degree heat on a pitch that’s magically metamorphosed from green grass to something resembling volcanic rock with all sorts of uneven divets, bumps, holes and thanks to the earthquake some actual sand bunkers.  Oh and losing 1-8.

Nothing like all that to make you feel old and tired.

Now the Tyranny of Convenience take on this would be I was out running around in beautiful Hagley Park on a beautiful summer night playing football (the beautiful game) with my beautiful friends, enjoying using my beautiful body and building health and flourishing. blah blah blah.

But sometimes the only thing that makes you feel better is a cold pint at the pub.  Which is where I took our goalkeeper afterwards – he’d had an even worse day at the ‘office’ than me.

For some reason I offered to take home the jerseys as well.  So, loaded as I was with 3 bags and most of the skin of the second toe of my right foot apparently missing, I was really looking forward to the walk to the bus stop and the slog up the hill to follow it all.*

I must say, The Idler is really catching my attention at the moment – I think Tom really is on to something there.  The whole ToC Loving the Effort idea is suddenly looking a bit… well, let’s just say that given the way I’m feeling right now,  a breath of fresh air on the whole subject of convenience might be just the tonic.

“I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”
– Pascal

* There is a happy ending!  I bumped into one of our neighbours on the bus who’d parked their car at the bus stop and drove me up the hill – how convenient – hooray!

Being Part of the Scenery

Ever had those moments, periods, even days, that seemed to flash by while you were looking the other way?  Ever been reading a book only to get to the end of a page and realise you’ve taken none of it in?

Every now and then I’ve had morning bus rides, bike rides and even scarier – car rides that I can’t remember.  I get to work, settle at my desk and realise I’ve just lost the last half an hour.  I remember being quite freaked out in the past when on occasion I’d driven somewhere and couldn’t really remember the specifics of getting there.  Yikes!

And not because I’d been drinking but because I had ‘transported’ my consciousness while my sub-conscious did the riding, walking or driving.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love daydreaming (best done when you’re not the one driving though) but sometimes we go through life in a kind of waking dream, not fully present in the moment or attending to the task at hand.  In short, we are not in a mindful state.

Mindfulness is the opposite of this.  Over on the Foundation’s website a fellow Health Promoter, Grant has described the practice of Mindfulness rather eloquently:

‘mindfulness helps us recognise and savour the wholesome moments that are already present in our lives. Often these are the quiet moments – they are so natural and smooth that they tend to slip by unnoticed. With mindfulness we touch these moments and we begin to taste the quiet joy that accompanies them.’

Grant discusses how Mindfulness has grown as a therapeutic technique but also transcends beyond treatment, becoming a lifestyle.

‘(Mindfulness is)… a way of being in the world rather than simply another technique that we ‘add’ to our lives.’

The beauty of mindfulness is it can be practiced anywhere, anytime (yes, even while driving your car).  It helps us to fully experience the richness of existence and appreciate the beauty of any given moment or place in time.  And that’s good for anyone, of any age, anytime.

I often used to think as I was driving my car to or from work how separated I was from the elements outside (sometimes that was a good thing – or so I used to believe).  But I didn’t realise until I started walking and biking just how much I was insulated from the world, from the experience that was ‘outside’.  And the more I say that word and think about it (“outside… out… side… outside”) the whole concept of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ starts to get pretty funky.  Whichever side you’re on, you’re on the side of something.  But what, exactly?

I digress.

I used to try being more mindful as I drove, or as I sat idling in traffic.  But I’m finding it much more rewarding when I’m walking.  Part of the appeal for me in going car-free was the opportunity to feel more connected with my environment – literally ‘part of the scenery’ – rather than a passive spectator.  I also needed something of a push (OK, a kick up the ass) to get out there and start doing it.  It was just never the right time, never convenient to begin.

As we’ve talked about before, going car-free for us was an idea whose time had come on the crest of a convergence of forces, reasons and aspirations.  It’s interesting to see which of those is becoming more or less important over the short time we’ve been doing it so far.  I’m really starting to love the walks up or down the hill, and even through town, in all sorts of weather.  I’ve now acquired a whole bunch of waterproof cycling gear and accessories to cope with every type of weather (no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothes) and I look forward to experiencing all of it this winter.

For those interested in the therapeutic application of Mindfulness, the UK Mental Health Foundation has started a major campaign championing Mindfulness.

Spare the effort and spoil the child

Does anyone else remember in the eighties (or was it the seventies?) when we used the phrase ‘spare the effort’ to chastise someone for wasting our time?  Like ‘say it to the hand’, or whatever.
No?  Just me then…

I’m finding the different responses from people about our decision to go car-free really interesting.  As mentioned previously, many people’s first response is about how difficult it must/will be with a small child.  (I reckon it would probably be harder with a hormone-addled teenager whose biological clock is suddenly insisting they borrow Dad’s car and circulate aimlessly around the inner city like those early season young houseflies you suddenly find in your house revolving endlessly in the middle of the room in some sort of mysterious insect holding pattern – ‘fly’-boy racers?)  Other people have already commented here that many people cope with raising children without owning a car or living nearby many facilities.  Since that post we’ve had multiple friends come forward offering their services as emergency transport, including our neighbours (remember those things?) We’re feeling really loved!

Mostly everyone has been quietly respectful of our decision even if they think we’re ‘buutsies’ (our favourite Seraphine-ism – rhymes with footsies) I’m still waiting eagerly for the ‘don’t you think it’s a little irresponsible?’ response, which may quite possibly never come.  But one lives in hope.

The other response I’ve been getting is “why did you decide to do it in winter, of all times?”  Usually accompanied by the sort of expression one reserves for people talking loudly to themselves on buses.  On the surface it seems a fair enough question but if you really think about it, what they’re actually saying is “winter’s a rather inconvenient time to be without a car.”

Yes, what with this strange, possibly climate change-related weather probably partly caused by our use of fossil fuels, this is an extremely inconvenient time to get rid of our car.

On the other hand, we’ve had some excellent responses from people too.  Here’s one following an email discussion I was having.  This great comment is from Sophia who I quote, with her permission, verbatim.

People just impose their own ideas of what your life should be like.  People are always remarking that my “poor wee kids” have to walk miles in the rain and cold (which they do, and they do whinge and bitch about it).  However, they are warmly dressed, it’s good for them, and the rest of the world and they appreciated it when they realised how easy they found climbing Rangitoto/doing school cross country etc.  The whole time we had my Mum’s car (last week) they complained like anything about sitting in the car.

So there is an upside to marching Seraphine up and down the hills of Lyttelton at the tender age of 21 months.  Hot-housing for cross country running.  (Is there any money in that?)

Because you’re worth it

“The changes that we desire for the world can only begin with what we are willing to do in our own lives.” – James Keye

The above quote comes from an essay entitled Tyranny of Convenience by James Keye it is one of the inspirations behind the title of this blog.  Another phrase in Keye’s essay is “the hopelessness of an effortless life” a theme we’ll return to as we draw the connections between owning and using our car and our addiction to convenience.  How, in our efforts to avoid effort, we sacrifice our health and wellbeing and that of our environment.  Perhaps more usefully we’ll also be documenting and ruminating on the positive effects of not owning a car.  This is not an anti-car blog – I love cars!  If it’s anything it’s a pro-active transport/anti-sedentary blog – but that’s not a very snappy title is it?

So what do you think of our little middle-class crusade so far?  Do you think it’s just another case of the petty bourgeoisie on the latest hobby horse to assuage our First World guilt?

Or do you reckon that we might be just like you and making small steps in the right direction?  Putting good intentions into a little worthy action.  We’re already reaping a little reward too.

Possibly most importantly, we’re not alone.

In fact, there are quite a few other blogs about rejecting our disposable, inauthentic and unsustainable societies in general and going car-free in particular.  We’ve got a reading list as long as our arm and we’ll tell you about some of the blogs we like and why we dig them, as we go along. Here’s some that we have already checked out that got us going.

  • Carbusters is the quarterly journal of the World Car Free Network and they publish a thoughtful blog as well.
  • A lot of people have said to us, “but isn’t it much harder doing this with a kid?” After all, in this neck of the woods, once one has spawned, it’s more usual to scale up to a people mover than to scale down to a pair of sturdy boots. It’s very early days for us, but we reckon it’s all about not trying to pack too much in, and instead really relishing the stuff you do. There’s a couple of blogs out there, both called Car Free with Kids; that agree. Some particularly interesting stuff on how to raise children that love to walk. Car Free with Kids and the other Car Free with Kids.

We’ll also be adding our own Blogroll of useful, interesting and related links in the sidebar as we go along.   These people are making the effort for all of us, even though it’s not convenient.  Why?  The answer is in the title of this post.  And a little effort can go a long way.

As I tell myself when I’m struggling to knuckle down and work on my art – if not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Defying Convenience

I’m not one to generalise, but-

One of life’s most common conveniences is generalising.  We all do it.  I’ve heard it described as an important survival tactic, evolved from years of hunter/gathering.  You see a large predator acting aggressively in a particular way and looking right at you and your buddies minding your own business while stalking the same antelope.  The angry predator suddenly charges at you and you’re now one buddy short of a good hunting party.  You rightly assume that all creatures of this kind pose a potentially mortal threat when on the hunt and avoid future encounters.

Likewise when working in the early community gardens of our ancestors you notice a long, slithery thing that bites a fellow horticultural executive who subsequently develops a bad case of death.  You feel within your moral right to generalise about long, slithery things, especially when elbow deep in the earth.

We generalise and generalise and generalise.  Why?  Why do we still seek to limit our understanding of the world to simplistic, arbitrary categorisation even though the vast weight of collective human history is at our fingertips and our own personal experience and knowledge would confirm what we know in our hearts?  Because it’s convenient.  It’s easier to generalise about people, cultures, races, countries, religions than it is to explain and take into account the myriad, sophisticated nuances of human existence and why bad, weird and random shit just happens – especially when you’re trying to make a particularly spurious point about [insert ethnic minority here] during smoko.

Here’s a few goodies related to the themes of this blog for you to chew over:

  • Cars are bad.
  • People who don’t own cars are good.
  • People who drive are bad.
  • Convenience is bad.

None of these are our assumptions in this blog.  That would be too easy.  Convenience isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  We’re not advocating throwing out our amazing stick blender for example.  But as they say, too much of a good thing…

It can be used as a weapon against us as Kevin E. Abrams suggests in his interesting opinion piece A Tyranny of Convenience (now there’s a good name).

The method by which a corporate or state socialist cartel achieves power is through seducing people into giving up their responsibilities because it is “convenient.” They do this because they understand authority and responsibility go hand-in-hand. By relinquishing our basic responsibilities we forfeit our authority.

In other words, it just makes us lazy.

Racial stereotypes are convenient.  Religious stereotypes are convenient. Mental illness stereotypes are convenient.  Except of course, they aren’t for the millions of people in question.

So do we really want life to be just about the avoidance of effort?

Are we hoping to leave ‘a bit in the tank’ for the last part of the game?

What on earth are we saving ourselves for? From?

Life is effort.  Even avoiding effort takes effort. What I think I’m coming to understand is, you’ve got to love the effort.

How much money is this saving us?

Straight up we’re saving the cost of buying a new car, (a new old car that is) but how much are we actually saving in our day to day budget by not running a car?

The AA makes this calculation very easy for everyone. Every year they compile the annual costs of running a full spectrum of cars, from a small petrol shopping trolley to a large diesel guzzling monster. You can access these figures for free if you are an AA member.

We run what the AA refers to as a compact car, (1501cc-2000cc). The AA’s estimate of the annual costs associated with that are below.

Fixed Costs
Annual relicensing $248
Insurance – third party only, no claim $158.63
Warrant of Fitness (biannually) $90
Total fixed costs $496.63
Running Costs
Petrol-litres used per 100km 6.35
Litres used over 14,000km 1039.5
Cost of fuel annually at $1.70 $1,767.15
Cost of oil $55.77
Tyres, cost per year $302.79
Repairs & Maintenance $579.22
Total Running Costs $2,704.93
Total Costs $3,201.56

AA also incorporates the depreciation value and the interest on outlay to purchase into your costs, if your car is less than five years old. According to the AA “a low value, older vehicle will have depreciated about as far as it’s likely to, so the fixed costs will be minimal”. Given that our car is 27 years old, I reckon it’s past the depreciation stage of affairs.

Based on these figures, the cost to run our car is approximately $61.57 per week. This doesn’t factor in parking costs, which can become substantial if you park your car in a city centre every day.

Compare this to the cost of public transport here in Christchurch. It costs Ciaran $21 per week for him to go to work on the bus every day. Assuming we also decide to use the bus as a family both days at the weekend that would cost us an extra $16.80, so $37.80 a week in total. In reality we tend to stay pretty close to home at the weekends, so costs are usually towards the lower end of that spread.

If both Ciaran and I began to work full time again, it might start to make more sense financially, to run a small efficient car and travel to work together. However figures on a spreadsheet don’t take into account the hidden costs of running a car and as we are all becoming increasingly aware, the pollution emitted by cars is a major contributor to the degradation of our environment. I think that now we’ve done some hard thinking about our transport choices, we’d feel morally obliged to buy the most environmentally efficient car we could afford (and there’s nothing like a public forum to make you walk the talk eh?), which means we’ve got some saving to do.

In our current circumstances, ditching the car is going to save us a minimum of $1,225 and a maximum of $2.109 a year, which isn’t to be sneezed at. That extra money is also going to come in very handy later this year when GST and childcare costs go up.

But are we paying for this monetary saving with a far greater outlay in effort and inconvenience? Well so far in my opinion, not so much. Sure some stuff is trickier, but it’s amazing when it comes down to it how many trips we were making were simply unnecessary, and I’m not missing that at all.

We want to talk more here about how convenience and speed have been raised up to be false gods in our society; indeed the title of this blog might give that away a teeny bit. But for now I’ve got to go and drink a cup of Earl Grey and listen to the Southerly gale hurling hail at the windows.