And another thing… Pedestrian Thinking?

Following on from the last post – no wonder we have such a hard time convincing people to consider the creation of a walking city (note: a walking city includes our rollin’ brothers & sisters).

The word ‘pedestrian’ has become in our society a kind of insult, meaning: slow, stulted, non-creative, inefficient and a bit lame.  In other words not fast, not sexy, not cool.  Which is why I love the work of Living Streets Aotearoa. From their website:

We want more people walking and enjoying public spaces be they young or old, fast or slow, whether walking, sitting, commuting, shopping, between appointments, or out on the streets for exercise, for leisure or for pleasure.

Let’s take back our public spaces!

This is from the page I linked to in the previous post: the Traffic Transport & Road Safety Associates (Ireland) website.  But it was so compelling I just wanted to give it a post all to itself.  Here’s the link again:

Pedestrianisation.

Why Pedestrianise?
  • Improving Road Safety – reducing the potential for conflict between vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists and motor vehicles creates a significant reduction in the number of accidents within the pedestrianised area.  In Odda in Norway accident reductions of over 80% were reported.
  • Improving Economic Vitality – most retailers, at least in town centres, appreciate that the number of people walking past their shop and not the number of people driving past their shop is key to getting people inside to spend money.  Pedestrians comparison shop, and research conducted in the United Kingdom reported increases in sales of upto 20% per year in the first few years following pedestrianisation. Research from 11 cities in Germany showed average rent increases of 50% after pedestrianisation. Chartered Surveyor Weekly reported that following the introduction of the footstreets concept in York, United Kingdom, a boom in retail sales was accompanied by rent increases of upto 400%.
  • Improving Social Interaction – increasing the amount that people meet, talk and interact, has been shown to have health benefits, but also creates a sense of community and a pride in the space or place.
  • Improving Health – in the same way that providing streets to drive on has been shown to increase traffic levels, providing a good walking environment has been shown to increase the number of people walking. Studies tend to show that the number of people walking within the immediate area will increase by over 50%.
  • Improving the environment – It is over 30 years since the OECD studied the link between environmental improvement and the removal of traffic.  Whilst some of the noted benefits such as reductions in Carbon Monoxide have now been addressed through the introduction of catalytic converters to vehicles, creating a modal shift from the car to walking reduces the level of CO2 helping the country to meet its emissions targets. Noise levels are also reduced by up to 15 decibels.

 

So, what kind of city do you want to live in?

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My New Best Friend

Well, I’ve posted before about the joys of legging it, walking back to happiness yada yada yada.  I’ve also hinted at diminishing waistlines and heroics on the football field.

But what are the benefits of increased physical activity?  (oh dear, he’s setting us up for a boring post about health and wellbeing again…)

Not true.  This is about gadgets!

Well, it’s partly about gadgets.  OK, it’s about one gadget, but it’s pretty neat.  The gadget in question is a pedometer. (Oh, is that all? [yawn] click…)

Ahem.  I got all interested because A) I now had to walk (or bike) everywhere and B) I was keen to get fit for football.  It’s funny how righteous you can be when you don’t have any choice.  I’m now some sort of evangelical exercise advocate amongst my colleagues and friends as if I’ve always jogged up and down hills and cycled 20km per day.

So I’m a bit of a fraud, but hey, at least I’m being active.

I had seen pedometers of course and like most of us was mystified as to how it could actually work (I mean, how can it tell I’m walking and not lifting my legs on the spot?) well the answer is: it doesn’t because the effect on your body is almost the same.  Movement of any kind, even gentle movement is beneficial to the body and your general health.  The more the merrier though.  I had heard about this 10,000 steps business through various people and wondered what it was all about.  All I knew was that 10,000 steps was apparently a minimum target for maintaining good health and wellbeing.  But where did this come from?  Why the magic number?  Was this pedometer company marketing propaganda?  Nobody seemed to know the specifics.  But more on that later…

I needed to find out and the first thing I did was to get myself a pedometer.  Ah.

Well, I was fascinated.  I thought I must have been pretty close to doing 10,000 with the walks up and down the hill to the bus stop and then maybe throw in a stroll at lunchtime etc. etc.  Just how far was I walking every day?  One person did warn me that ten thou was a lot harder to achieve than you think – it’s a lot of steps.  Well, we’ll see – and so I got myself a new best friend.

Typically me, if I was going to buy one of these things I had to look at every possible option, work out the value and get to know the very best quality models blah blah blah.  Endless browsing on Trade Me ensued.  In the end just as I was to buy the very best (and most expensive) pedometer I could find (it measured heart rate, blood sugar, IQ, translated languages, calculated stock trends and did your homework for you) I had a sudden attack of common sense and bought the smallest half decent one I could find – it had occured to me that the lumpy, bulky, heavily-featured models would potentially be awkward and uncomfortable to wear all day – and I wanted to calculate every step I took including around the office and up and down the stairs.  I found one that was the size of a credit card and about 5mm thick.  It slipped right into my pocket and away we go.

First thing you have to do is set the pedometer for your own normal walking stride (or the stride you want measured – so if it’s for running you set it to your running stride) by counting your steps over precisely 10 metres.  This is just so the pedometer can calculate the distance you’re walking.  However the beauty of  ‘steps’ and therefore the beauty of the 10,000 steps campaign is that for each individual a step is a step is a step – it’s not about the distance, it’s about the movement.

Righto. Flushed with anticipation and righteousness I set out for work with my not-so-flexible friend.  Resisting the temptation to check it every 20 steps or so I arrived at the bus stop on Norwich Quay and duly checked my account so far – 1136 steps.  Oh dear.  That was a major chunk of my walking for the day, on a normal day.  I saw the magic 10,000 receding and waving into the distance over the hills and far away.

Resolving to ‘score’ as many steps as my little competitive virgo brain could conceive without actually exerting myself more than I had to, I considered reverse pick-pocketing one of Lyttelton’s many harrier hill runners as they trotted past like burnished leather mountain goats.  But no.  I just needed to know what a typical day looked like so I had a baseline to work on. Ho hum.  Everyone harbours secret ideas of their own super-ability – no-one likes being exposed for the average person they really are.  A few masochists blog about it.

Wearing the pedometer every day from as soon as I was dressed until I undressed at night, I measured the amount of movement I did in a typical and not-so-typical day. (oooo – tell us tell us!)

On average, a ‘good’ day for me, in and out of the office (but one that didn’t include football or cycling) could see me making somewhere between 6-7000 steps.

A ‘not-so-good’ day (one without extra activity and where I didn’t get to walk at lunchtime) where I was mostly desk-bound might see me do as little as 5500 steps.  (Hey 10,000 steps, wait up!! huff puff…)

According to the 10,000 steps campaign, a general assessment of levels of activity – between 5000 – 7000 steps is considered ‘low active’.  Anything less than 5000 is considered ‘sedentary’.  Oh dear indeed…

I will post shortly on the references for this information and the 10,000 steps campaign which originated in Australia I discovered.  Of course it did, that land of tanned and buff beach bunnies right?

Wrong.  Latest World Health Organisation statistics on prevalence of obesity peg Australia at 12th out of 192 nations for the prevalence of obesity in the population of males aged 15+ – about 75.7% of that population is considered overweight.  The female population is acquitting itself quite a bit better ranking Australia at 41st with 66.5% of that population considered overweight.  Perhaps that’s where their good reputation comes from…

And for all you kiwis feeling a little smug right now: here’s a little pin to pop your bubble…

New Zealand is right behind our ‘bigger’ cousins with females aged 15+ seeing NZ ranked 17th for overweight or obesity (74.2% of that population) and 14th for males aged 15+ with about 73.9% of the population considered overweight or obese.  (And our National government is concerned with ‘closing the gap with Australia’.  No thanks).

Elizabeth began to take an interest in my little step obsession.

“I wonder how many steps I do every day?  Especially those days when I take the Bobbin to Busy C’s – there and back twice in a day.”  Busy C’s is across the other side of Lyttelton and up quite a steep hill.

“Well, 10,000 steps is quite a lot to achieve in one day” I said sagely.

“Still I’d like to know how I’m doing.”

“Of course you do, dear.” So I gave her the pedometer.  How’d she do?  Well, you can see for yourself:

My new best friend and I aren’t talking at the moment.

The Hard Yards

Well, it happened faster than I thought it might.

No, we haven’t snuck out and bought a car and then hoped the blog would quietly fade away. At least, not yet.

But I’m talking about losing momentum. The motivation to keep going even though it’s tough and inspiration is short. I have an image in my head of being on my bike on a cross-country trail and going down a small, steep slope that leads immediately into a steep rise. You think you have enough momentum to carry you up the rise but find that without pedalling to add to your momentum it is quickly sapped and you eventually succumb to inertia which when strapped to your pedals on a 45-odd degree incline is less than ideal.

Such has been the tail end of our winter. July was all about illness in our house and it just sapped not only our witty, insightful bloggery but our very shpadoinkle too.

But ah, peace has once again settled over our little portion of Lyttelton.  And while the soggy old winter that we’ve endured robbed us of traction we are once again noticing longer days and milder temperatures.

Reflecting on the past month with a fellow MHP today I noted that it was easy to be all ‘jolly hockeysticks’ about getting out in the rain and enjoying the breath-blowing winter walks up the hill when everything was shiny and new and I was full of the zeal of righteous eco/health do-gooding.  But add in a continually sick toddler, about 4 metres of rain and a lack of sunshine and it all starts to say “get a car, get in the car and get the hell out of dodge for a weekend.”

So yeah, why didn’t we?

Good question and no answer.  We’ve already reported on the financial savings of not owning a car and the fact that, in theory at least, we should be able to afford the odd rented car for a weekend.  Well when everyone is ill, the idea of going away starts to take on a herculean hue of difficulty.

It’s easy in hindsight to go “oh yeah, why didn’t we think of that?’ but sometimes, in winter and the freezing, pouring rain, it’s hard to see the forest for the firewood, dvds and a cheap bottle of wine.

Oh and the sporting metaphor?  The hard yards is also about spending Sundays in the aforementioned nippy conditions carving out a little bit of sporting history for our little port town with the mighty Lyttelton B’s who despite intervention from the elements and bureaucrats have continued to press on to glory in the Christchurch Sunday Soccer League. It hasn’t just been Tyranny of Convenience that has been sliding around seeking traction in the mud.  I suppose there definitely has been health benefits to all this ‘trudgery’.

And if you think the link to football in this post is gratuitous, just be thankful I decided not to post about the trousers I can now fit into…

Naughty naughty

I’ve been absent without a note from my mum. Sorry about that. I’ve been bunking off because I started working part time in the office again. Only two five hour days a week, but I tell you what, I am bloody shattered. I don’t know how people manage to work full time and still be the primary carer* for their child. I’d be dead.

By Thursday night this week I had done so much walking that my arse muscles were aching. What with hiking across Lyttelton to drop the spawn off at pre-school, running frantically for the bus, walking slightly more sedately from the bus stop in town to work, and then repeating the whole shebang in reverse, all the while with my great heavy lap top bag slung over one shoulder giving me an attractive lopsided gait, I walk about six miles on a work day, much of it up hill. I’m aiming to do it in heels soon, just for yucks, and because glamour is pain sweeties.

Since we got back from Scotland I’ve definitely been much more active, so by rights I should be bright eyed and bushy tailed, queen of the perky brigade, nauseatingly chipper, you know, one of those happy idiots. Instead I’m mildly morose and knackered. It must be the season getting to me. Still I remind myself, as I eyeball despairingly the mountain of organic seasonal vegetables wilting in the fridge, before making the beast yet another bowl of porridge for her supper, that things would surely be much bleaker, if I weren’t being insanely vigorous.

That’s a resounding endorsement for walking lots eh? I should give up my day job and become a motivational speaker.

Good stuff that has happened while we’ve been off line:

Winter is over half way done, which is good, because while the clothes are better in winter, (boots, hats, big dramatic coats, scarves, jumpers, wheeeee!) getting up in the dark becomes wearisome, and I am half sick of shadows (and big power bills).

I made a chocolate cake with whiskey soaked raisins in it, which gets better every day. Oh yes. It does. Just went to check that it is still getting better, and you can all rest easy, it’s still on its uphill curve.

We’ve been cooking more stuff without meat. Spicy carrots rock my world. So cheap, so seasonal, so fricking delicious. Also dhal. Dhal is good. Ciaran has invented the most delicious spaghetti with tomato and caper sauce and lots of bread crumbs toasted in butter. He usually puts bacon in it, but it’d be just as good without.

Some beautiful and kind ladies took me for an impromptu birthday tea in the tropical house in the Botanic gardens, which is a great place to have a picnic on a cold, grey winter’s day. The only drawback is that there isn’t really anywhere to sit, so we set up camp rather awkwardly on a slightly wider section of concrete path, where we spread out our table cloth, our thermos, and our cupcakes and got stuck in, while other visitors to the greenhouse passed us by, variously attempting to ignore our presence, looking rather aggrieved at our outrageous behaviour or making smart arse/endearing comments.

I’ve signed up for a fiction writing course at the polytech, and promptly missed the first session, because the toddler was ill, again, but we won’t let such minor details stand between us and our good intentions, which is what I am sincerely hoping the course leader will say when I turn up sheepishly late next week.

I bought the world’s prettiest oilcloth to cover our big table from the depredations of paint wielding toddlers. It’s got flowers and birds and it’s just gorgeous, and it complements my big vase of coral roses. What? Pretty things make me happy. Look…shiny!

There, I’ve counted my blessings and I feel much better. Ain’t that nice? Actual topical writing will commence again soon, but Ciaran’s in Auckland listening to music, so you’ll have to make do with fatuous fluff for the now.

*Isn’t primary carer a repulsive term? I’ve been filling out too many tax forms recently. I mean the person who does the most feeding, washing, entertaining, poo removal and general day to day wrangling for the fruit of their loins.

Cool cheap shit to do without a car in Christchurch

Banks Peninsula has been riven from mainland New Zealand by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. The rest of the country has been devastated by a vast tsunami, drought, floods and the ensuing mass sickness.  The population has been decimated, starvation and violence are rife*.

It’s amazing the cheery fantasies one can have on the loo in the morning, no?

So I thought I’d start a series of occasional fluff pieces on cool stuff one can do around the hood without an automobile. Just for fun I’m going to throw in the additional handicaps of a toddler and limited moolah.

Just in case you think this blog is descending into lifestyle supplement drivel, I’d like you to know that I’m also working on an incisive piece of investigative journalism about the true cost of the trucking industry, but it’s a bit hard, alright.

I joined a new Facebook group called Secret Christchurch recently but it turns out most people’s idea of a secret isn’t that secret, and mainly revolves around shopping. Now me, I like to spend money, just like the next person, but, as I might have mentioned before, we had a baby almost two years ago, and babies, while cute and all, have a tendency to play havoc with your finances. I had plans to dump the wee snot bag in daycare asap and rush back to work once my maternity leave was up, but when it came down to it, I didn’t. So here we are, at home and broke. My mother told NZ Customs that I was a housewife. Me, I tell people I work part time from home and then segue into a rapturous rant about how fabulous and accommodating my employers have been (they are, thanks guys!) to cover the fact that I have no idea what I am doing with my life. Still that’s for another story. In the meantime, while I’m trying to work out what to do when I grow up, I’ll take the wean on some amusing budget outings and tell you all about it. Deal?

In installment part the first of this exciting new series, Mumminy Umminy** and the Bobbin go to Ferrymead to buy a bathmat.

Going from Lyttelton to Ferrymead is awesome. If you are feeling absurdly energetic you can yomp up over the Bridle Path, down to Heathcote and onwards to the sea. I did that once with the little person on my back, when she was about eight months old. I was bloody knackered afterwards, and she weighed half of what she does now. Now we get the bus through the tunnel and get off on the other side and walk from there.

There’s a lovely wee park in Heathcote, nestled in the valley and with some fine big old trees, it looks like a great place to have summer family picnics. Haven’t done that yet, but it’s on the list of stuff to do when the sun returns. If you hang a left down past the park you’ll come to a cluster of funky local businesses, coffee roaster Upshot and Rhombus cafe, the organic tofu man and the delightful gift shop Blackbird. Head down there on a sunny morning and sit out on the grass with your coffee and you might hear kereru in the trees opposite and see groups of riders from the Heathcote Valley riding school ambling past.

But yesterday we didn’t go that way. Instead we carried on down Bridle Path Road, stroking the venerable gum trees as we went past and I successfully fought the urge to turn up the drive to Aromaunga Flowers and blow the grocery money on great armfuls of lilies and jewel coloured posies of anemones. They grow the flowers on site in acres of glasshouses behind the old homestead, and as I walk up the drive, shaded by the big mature trees, past the graceful house and the older glasshouses, I like to imagine that I live there and grow flowers. I always go there in December for Christmas lilies and big boxes of cherries.

On we went, past the horses in the paddocks in their winter coats, which tickled the Bobbin mightily and past the entrance to Heathcote Quarry, which I am ashamed to confess I have never visited, but I bet it’s brilliant and will be correcting that omission very soon.

Not far from the entrance to the Quarry is a villa with a plaster death mask hanging from its veranda. The eyes are closed and a half smile plays on the full lips. It is hung with wire, so it sways slightly in the breeze. If you’re not expecting it and catch it out of the corner of your eye, as I did the first time, it can give you quite a start. Actually it probably isn’t really a death mask, but a touch of the macabre makes for a far finer anecdote, I always find.

Yesterday morning there was no wind at all. When we came to the estuary it was glassy calm, and the reflections were sharp and perfect. Even the shags drying their wings had their upside down twins. We leaned over the rail of the bridge and could see our own watery faces staring back.

One of my favourite places in Ferrymead is the $2.00 clothing warehouse. This frigid cavern filled with miles of garment rails, crammed with colour coded clothes, is a paradise for the poverty striken clothing fetishist. It took me a while to see the true beauty in the place. The first few times I visited I thought, “Ew! Miles of stinky grubby polyester, run, run away,” which isn’t actually far from the reality, so lower your expectations now. It’s the slops bucket for the city’s better quality second hand clothing emporiums, where they send all the stuff that is too cheap and nasty to be sold in their more expensive city centre shops. So there is a lot of nasty crap. But in the last two years I have grown so much as a person that I am able to see beyond the unpromising first impression to the beautiful pearl hidden within. Yes that’s right folks, I’m poor and I’ve got nothing better to do.

You’ve got to be in the right mood to trawl through hundreds of horrible garments to find the hidden master piece, but the Bobbin loves it there, because there are lots of other kids for her to make eyes at, so I got at least half an hour of uninterrupted browsing, before the poor wee mite got hypothermic and bored and had to be moved to the exciting flesh pots of Mitre 10. In that time I found the most exciting item of clothing ever; a peacock blue velour trackie top, which might not sound initially promising, but this utilitarian item, dear friends, is embroidered with a heraldic crest, bearing the motto “one’s way of life”. I fell on the floor weeping with delighted mirth and had to be given CPR by a passing fellow bargain hunter.

After such dizzy heights of retail bliss, there wasn’t much else to recount. We then went to Mitre 10 and bought a bath mat, as previously advertised and a new wooden toilet seat as a wild impulse purchase (because the manky old plastic one hitherto gracing our not very salubrious loo, had pinched my arse in its gelid maw  one time too many). And on that topic, I have to say, a decent loo seat is a wonderful thing. Which brings me full circle to my apocalyptic morning musings, and so I leave you. Adieu, adieu.

* But on the plus side, property prices in Lyttelton have fallen dramatically.

**That’s me. The Bobbin came up with that all by herself. Gifted child I tell you.

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?)

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…

One of life’s passengers

It’s possible that we have an unfair advantage as a family, going into this experiment.

I don’t drive and never have. Well, that’s not entirely true, I drove during protracted sessions of driving lessons, and I drove during two driving tests. Once I drove a friend to the supermarket. She wasn’t complimentary about my driving afterwards; I think she might have been a bit scared. Anyway, I did get my restricted New Zealand driving license, second go round, and I haven’t actually driven a vehicle since that day, which was over five years ago.

I simply don’t have any urge to drive and I’ve been lucky to have had very nice partners, who also happen to be excellent drivers, who didn’t and don’t mind ferrying me about the place, mainly because they are kind men, but also because they enjoy driving.

Furthermore, I really like public transport. I enjoy buses and trains and subways and ferries. I adore watching people and I like to be watched. I love to read books, and also to stare out the window at the view. It amuses me to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations and sometimes I simply gaze vacantly into the middle distance thinking incredibly vacuous thoughts, which is usually quite soothing. Most of all I like the decompression zone that public transport provides between home and work.

But although I dig the loser cruiser* so mightily, I haven’t actually been riding it much recently. We had a baby about a year and a half ago, and since then I’ve been mainly at home in a sleep deprived haze trying to raise the tiny tyrant. It’s rare that we leave Lyttelton.

Me and the bairn do a lot of walking up and down the hilly streets of the Ton. I’m raising her to tackle steep slopes from an early age, just as my father; whose encouraging mantra was “just over the next rise,” raised me and my siblings. Walking has always been a great source of pleasure to me, which, given that I have the self discipline of a decadent dormouse and hate team sports, ball sports, running and the gym, is probably the only thing saving me from being an enormous tub.

So am I cheating by making a big deal of this resolution? I don’t drive anyway, and therefore I’m used to finding other modes of transport. Well, yeah, but no, but yeah, as they say round these parts. Sure I’m no Merivale tractor wielding matron, but I am accustomed to leaping in our car and being chauffeured swiftly to places in ease and comfort. That convenience just disappeared. Plus there are a number of more specific practical difficulties attendant on being car free that we have already considered, or encountered, of which more in a separate post. It’s going to be an ongoing process of adjustment and reconsideration and not without discomfort.

*The charming Christchurch vernacular for their excellent fleet of regular, reliable and reasonably priced buses.