my father made the wise decision to cease driving. He was 85 when he made this decision. By then he had also invested in a "gopher", one of those small motorised golf-buggy type vehicles now so popular with the elderly.
He had actually been to get the medical certificate to go on driving but he had gone on his gopher. He passed the medical. He had recently had a few refresher driving lessons. He passed a new test. I was still anxious when he went out because he was too cautious...and that can cause an accident just as easily as lack of caution. I said nothing because the car meant independence for him.
"I passed my licence in," he told me when he came home, "I just don't want the responsibility any more."
Three years later I am still glad that he made that decision for himself rather than being forced into it by someone else.
My spatial perception capacities are not good. I have never learned to drive. I use pedal power to go anywhere. In very wet or very hot weather this is not pleasant. I put up with it because I must.
There are however ways of making this more pleasant. It requires organisation. It is the reason that this blog post is late this morning. I went shopping first because today is going to be unpleasantly hot.
Our local supermarket opens at seven in the morning. I was not there at seven but I was there a few minutes before eight. The ride up there was remarkably pleasant. It was still cool enough. It was very, very quiet. Most people in this district will not go back to work until Tuesday. This meant there was almost no vehicular traffic on the back streets I use. That was pleasant enough in itself. I could pedal along almost silently.
I spoke to the Devon Rex cat in the next street and the Siamese around the corner from that. The black cat was snoozing on the brick wall and did not bother to open an eye but a light flick of the tail acknowledged my presence. The humans they own were nowhere to be seen.
A woman who has a severely psychotic son was watering her geranium hedge. I stop to ask if she needed anything and she handed me two letters to post "if you will". We both know it is going to be a difficult day for her.
There were three couples out walking their dogs. I know the dogs better than the humans but the humans greeted me with "Happy New Year" anyway. There were other walkers but only one jogger. The fox that lives by the railway line gave me a dirty look and almost slid under the big olive hedge which is, I think, his home.
The shopping centre was quiet. Most of the shops were not yet open. I knew the supermarket would be. I knew the greengrocer would be by eight. I did not need to go anywhere else. Pushing a trolley around was easier than usual. There were people in there of course, some with the same idea as myself and others who always shop before going to work. There were however not nearly so many people.
The girl at the checkout told me that her sister had her baby on Christmas Day - "a boy and he's beautiful if you are allowed to say boys are beautiful".
In the greengrocer the boys putting out the day's produce told me, "Anything you want we have not put out yet just let us know Cat - oh and the biscuits were great. Thanks."
I did not make them Christmas biscuits expecting extra consideration but it was nice of them to offer.
Some staff were getting coffee before starting their day. The girl from the chain that does light meals brought breakfast over for the boys in the greengrocer as I was leaving. They have been up since 4am this morning.
I rode back carefully. It was getting busier. It was getting warmer. It was good to get home and into the relative cool of our house.
My father could have kept his licence. We could have gone shopping in the air-conditioned comfort of a car. It would have been less effort. I would also have missed out on all that.
Oh it was so quiet, it was all so quiet. The world is a different place at that hour.