One aspect of my current life of which I will be glad to see the back is my commute to work. I know it is probably not as bad as many other’s but trudging through fresh knee high snow, in sub-zero temperatures and during the darkest hour just before dawn, to reach our chalet from our billet to start making breakfast does, at this particular time, feel distinctly more appealing than my present journey. Perhaps it is because I have been travelling this route for 15 years and it is getting so much worse year on year.
Whilst I don’t actually use the M1 I have to cross from the west side to the east. The current road works on the motorway are not expected to be completed for another 12 months having already taken that time to start to install a ‘smart-motorway’ for the length between three junctions, i.e. 2 sections. My route takes me straight across a junction and avoiding that to traverse a bridge or underpass requires quite a considerable detour. However, periodically the almost stationery traffic can back up for well over a mile with minimal opportunities for diversion. If this was consistent I could have just adopted a new but longer route for the duration but it is intermittent so I always live in hope that it’ll be a clear day each time I embark on my commute only to be thwarted on numerous erratic occasions.
The traffic in the West Yorkshire conurbation is so heavy that it takes minimal disturbance to cause total disruption far and wide. One does have to question why the local council waited until the week after the schools returned from the summer holidays to resurface one of the main tributaries into the City of Wakefield. It took 45 minutes to travel 300yds, I had so much spare time I measured it! I suspect it would be the same decision-maker who approved another link road used as an alternative in the vicinity of the M1 to be closed for 7 months earlier this year. I’ll bet they don’t have to travel on this side of the city.
Nearer to home is little better. I enjoy living in a rural setting and do appreciate that farming has a significant impact on local community. If we want to live and delight in the ambience and scenery of the countryside (don’t get me started on wind turbines!) we do have to accept the consequences of this business. However, is it really necessary to move a 300 head herd of dairy cattle over half a mile along a busy road at 7.45am? Does anyone realise how slowly cows walk? It can’t be much more than 1 mile an hour. The presence of a long queue of cars in pursuit, containing fuming and frustrated commuters does not have any impact on their urgency, nor that of the cowhands. The only option, beyond patience and time wasting, is to turn around and take a longer route but unfortunately one is usually in congestion on a fairly narrow country road by this time which can prove tricky but not insurmountable.
I will concede that this past year these beasts do appear to be moved at a variety of times so that the same poor souls aren’t continually being caught in the manure trap. An easier solution could be to always take them to same pasture on the same day so that we would know when to avoid that particular road but I suppose the destination is determined by the quality of the grazing rather than the convenience of the neighbours. An alternative field selection results in the animals crossing a more major road which does not allow for a substitute route apart from one which is 180degrees in the opposite direction. At least it takes slightly less time to cross than it does to meander along the road. On this particular road a driver would be heading almost due east which can result in sun-blindness at certain times of the year as the glare off the dew-damp wiped windscreen or the rapidly condensing breath on the inside of the car can be absolutely dazzling. I’ve not seen anyone hit a cow or farmhand yet but I guess it’s only a matter of time; particularly if you are new to the area and do not expect to be either blinded or confronted with a massive herd of milk producers.
We will not just be saying goodbye to our commuting route but also the cars. His is on a contract so there is no point in keeping it and mine, at 92,000 miles, is due to fall apart. My son is interested in acquiring it as he feels his little Fiat Seicento does not fit his image, I think he should be pleased to have wheels at all. Unfortunately at 21 he still gets clobbered for insurance and as mine is 1600cc and SXi it will cost considerably more than the car is worth which is potentially less than reliable. I hadn’t actually realised the level of specification when I bought it or I may have been a little more restrained. He wasn’t able to drive at all from the time he passed his test until he went to New Zealand where insurance is optional, as the best price we could find was £8000 and only 3 companies would even provide a quote!
We have had offers of space on friends’ driveways to leave the car but it probably wouldn’t be worth taking up anyone’s kind proposal. There is, obviously, a cost to keeping a vehicle even off the road and the chances are that it’ll be in the wrong part of the country when we arrive at one airport, having departed from another. So our plan is to hire when we do manage our fleeting visits as they will involve a considerable amount of travelling from the south coast of Hampshire to Yorkshire via the Midlands with a possible extension to Inverness. Alternatively, as we will be travelling light and be used to being without our own wheels we may indulge in public transport.
One area of concern, which was highlighted recently by my enforced restriction, is the ability to drive after a prolonged absence. I was quite surprised at how much I had mislaid my ability to judge speed and distance after just 6 weeks out of the driver’s seat. It certainly was the longest period by far that I had not driven since starting driving lessons 34 years ago. How much will our judgment be impaired if we do not drive for 5 months and then resume in a strange car on unfamiliar roads?