I'm back after the usual round of visits to relatives, which were slightly complicated by the fact that our car decided to have a festive breakdown. It has been somewhat grumpy of late, but a couple of days before Christmas, it failed to start. After a phone call to my auto consultants (my Dad and brother), the consensus was that the battery might be just resting rather than dead. So I bought a charger, charged up the battery and it started the engine, though now the lights behind the instrument panel were flickering on and off. On Christmas Day, we drove across town to visit Mr. Bsag's family, and the car was playing up again. The drive belt and/or fan belt seems to be slipping, generating a loud and highly embarrassing squealing noise. Worse, half way through our journey, the car seemed to lose a lot of power, and we could smell burning. When we stopped, smoke was pouring out of the driver's side front wheel. It seems that the brake had stuck on, and set the brake pad smouldering. Our festive greeting to my in-laws went something like, "Happy Christmas, and can we have a bottle of water to put the fire out on our car?"
That was pretty much the last straw. There wasn't enough time to get it fixed before we travelled to see my parents, so we booked train tickets instead. Amazingly, the train journey turned out to be pretty painless, and much less stressful than braving the motorways at Christmas. We've decided that the time has come to go car-less. We'll get the problems fixed, sell the car, and revel in our freedom. We hardly use the car at all at the moment, so all the money spent on insurance, road tax and repairs is mostly wasted. We worked out that with the money we'll save, we can hire a car on those occasions when we need to get away for a weekend, and can't use the train, and taxis when we have a sudden emergency, and we'll probably still have money left over.
We're lucky that we live in an area with pretty good public transport links, so it will make very little difference to our lives to get rid of the car, but it's amazing how people think life would be impossible without having a car sitting in the drive. "But what will you do in an emergency?" they say. Taxis are rarely more than a couple of minutes away, and anyway -- because Mr. Bsag doesn't drive -- we would only be able to use the car in an emergency if I wasn't incapacitated. Personal transport was supposed to bring us freedom, but it seems more often to be a financial and environmental millstone around our necks -- another responsibility and source of worry that we don't really need. I'm looking forward to cutting the chain and setting us free.