Wednesday, 1 May 2013

105,000 miles that have helped save the planet - feel free to thank me.

For the last 15 years I’ve been doing my bit for the environment and sharing driving duties with my colleague Peter.

We have a very different approach to the commute:

Driving styles
With the brick, sorry I mean Volvo, Peter has adopted a steady tank-like approach to our journeys. The tank chews up the road as it grinds slowly to and from work. While I have a more, how shall I put it – “accelerate, pedal to the metal, decelerate*” style. While Peter joins the back of a queue I tend to work my way along and find the gap… There is always a gap. The motorist who left it does not always realise it but they soon learn….

* requiring the remaining two pedals to be forced even harder to the metal - often with both eyes shut, working on the basis that if you can’t see something, how can you possibly hit it? A philosophy that has worked moderately well so far…

You can normally tell when I've driven

through your neighbourhood….
I am very much a SatNav man with its built in traffic alerts, while Peter (as you may have read) is committed to the paper map. There are pros and cons to both approaches. I am the first to admit that SatNav does not always get it right and adding to that is the variable that I often believe I know best and override its instructions. Sometimes this works and sometimes it goes spectacularly wrong, adding what can seem like hours to a journey. After 15 years of what is a pretty well trodden path, the SatNav can still surprise us. Just the other week it produced a new work around route to one particular section of our journey. It’s a shame it didn’t suggest it years ago, it could have saved us a lot of time….

Peter’s map-based approach is much simpler but has the disadvantage of not showing traffic. That is not the main problem with it, however. You see Peter’s maps are all Essex-based and only one of our routes takes us through a tiny little bit of Essex: when we decide to go down the M11. This leads us to an even bigger flaw with Peter’s maps - they are early 16th and 17th century when the M11 was not even a sparkle in the eyes of Chapman & Andre (who, according to Peter , are the creators of the finest Essex maps ever drawn – The Tom Tom of their day).

If you are interested in maps and have not yet been commited to an asylum why not check out Peters Map web page -
The Cars
During the 15 year period:

Peter has used a Volvo Estate which, other than changing colour every few years, appears otherwise unchanged. Peter assures me, however, that the shape has evolved as well, although for the life of me I’ve never noticed. A brick is a brick no matter what fancy shape you attempt to make it. At times I have a sneaking suspicion that it might still be the original Volvo with multiple re-spray jobs and number plate changes.

The Volvo Sport, it has taken years of Swedish
research to hone this special aerodynamic shape.
Cutting through the traffic like a pensioner
chewing a Tesco’s value steak….

While I have brought to the party:

Vauxhall Astra Sport – It had an excellent turning circle and…..well that was it really….Oh yes when it had a puncture I drove for about 5 miles before I realised, by which time there was no actual tyre left. This speaks volumes about the car, especially when you consider the handling, which, if anything, improved slightly after the flat (evidently the Astra Sport had aspirations of being a Reliant Robin)….

Citron AX –Used as a station run car by Mrs B and only very occasionally (possibly just the once in fact) used for the car share commute. A tin can on wheels, so bad that no self-respecting Salmon or Tuna (Sardines are far less fussy) would be seen dead in it…..

VW Golf Mark IV - While it is now aging it is a turbo GTI and probably still the fastest car that I have owned. Thankfully the brakes have proved as good as the accelerator over the years… This is the only car that has been involved in an incident while we have been commuting. When someone reversed into us while we were stationary, waiting for a road blockage to clear.

Convertible Mini – The first time I drove Peter in the mini it was a nice warm, sunny day in early September and I had the roof down. Peter eyed the car suspiciously before pulling out a large woolly hat (Where’s Wally? style) and long scarf. For those of you old enough, think Tom Baker as Dr Who. If you are not old enough, shame on you. Check him out on Google, after all that was what it was invented for. If you are really awkward, too old for Tom Baker and don’t know what on earth this Google thing is… then think of the longest scarf you have ever seen and then double it….To this day Peter won’t allow me to drive with the roof down, even on the hottest of days, claiming “too much of a draft and too uncomfortable”. This is very hard for me to take, especially because, when he is not in the car I work on the premise: if it’s dry and above freezing, the roof comes down. I should have purchased a sun visor with the words “I would have the roof down but my passenger won’t let me…” After I replaced the Mini he declared it one of the worst cars he had ever been in. Mainly because, despite it being a Mini Cooper, it was very under-powered and so I had to thrash it to within an inch of its existence to get any response out of it….

Convertible BMW - The last two cars have been 1 series Convertibles. After so many years of me ribbing Peter about having the same brick, I have at last provided him the ammo to fight back. The fact that both cars have been black with a red leather interior has hardly helped my cause. My claim that one was petrol while the other diesel, thus making them entirely different cars, falls on deaf ears….

Peter’s music taste ranges from Classical music to Meat Loaf, or, to be more precise, Meat Loaf – “Bat out of Hell” (……original version only).

I tried playing him the revamped orchestral version….it went down the same as when I tried him with “Bat out of Hell II” and indeed “III”. Neither were acceptable in the slightest (Mrs B, often says, “You shouldn’t mess with a good thing”**). Since I can take about an advert’s worth of Classical music and “Bat out of Hell” was never going to sustain more than a couple of trips (even though I have no problem with it), music was clearly “out”.

** Which apparently covers almost everything in life …. Except for her constant, if futile, efforts to improve me…..

It was a similar story with radio. We did go through a stage of listening to The Archers but Peter got fed up with my constant moaning (sometime working up to a proper whine – it got to the point where I would refuse to listen to the signature tune and would turn the radio off for as long as possible). A compromise was reached and Peter decided it would be more peaceful to listen to the Sunday omnibus….

So with music and radio out of the question what would be our entertainment? Our saviour turned out to be audio books….

During our time together we have got through:

Seven (the entire series) Harry Potter books – all excellently read by Stephen Fry. 

Most of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series

Lord of the Rings at least twice

And hundreds of classics – Dickens, Tolstoy etc
We have a rule that once a book has started we have to finish it….. That has not always proved to be a good or enjoyable thing. For instance:

The Castle by Franz Kafka. A book so dire that Kafka could not finish it himself, deciding he would rather starve himself to death instead. We didn’t know this until the book stopped mid sentence, which was both a blessing and a curse – since it was the end of our suffering but with nothing to show for it……

The problem with being a passenger is that you do not always stay awake for the entire journey and so whole swathes of a book can go missing, making future chapters a complete mystery as you struggle to work out what the hell is going on. Not so bad when the driver can fill in the gaps but extremely worrying when neither of us can remember what came before….

Our most memorable journey
We have various routes to and from work, one of which involves going through a ford. On one occasion when we approached the ford we noticed the water was higher and running much quicker than normal. As Peter inched down towards it I jokingly said “I’d go for it”. Peter assumed I was being serious and in we went. About halfway across, with the car moving sideways as much as it was moving forwards we were both getting extremely nervous…Somehow the car made it to the other side and just about dragged itself out – if it had been a dog it would have found the closest human being and vigorously shaken itself. It was a good 3 years before Peter ventured near that ford again…..

If only we had thought to time Peters moving
sideways in the ford we  might have broken
the Volvo land speed (well water speed) record...

All things must end
Sadly, our car sharing days are rapidly coming to an end as Peter has opted to take early retirement. No doubt literally driven out of the firm by me….

If you ever find yourself with a car-sharing opportunity remember, while it is not an easy option to take it can work as long as you follow some simple rules:

Work out departure times that suit both of you – and remember some days it is just not going to be practical to car share.

It is always the driver’s prerogative i.e. the driver gets to decide which route to take – this is not as easy as it sounds especially when there are many variations of a route, as on our journey.

If one of you needs to get home in a hurry, remember: the traffic will inevitably go against you. On the whole it is probably quicker with my style of driving but sitting stationary in traffic is a great leveller.

Talking books is the way forward but a word of advice: don’t, no matter how much your car-sharer begs you, attempt to listen to Kafka. Also, it is probably a good idea to record the trip, that way if you happen to miss any of the book during the journey you can always catch up on it later….

Advantages of Car sharing
Beyond the obvious of being green – No not like the Jolly Green Giant, although that might be quite cool….

Over the last 15 years, Peter and I have averaged around 100 journeys together each year. At 70 miles each round trip this adds up to a fairly impressive 105,000 miles.

On the basis that we drove alternate journeys, it works out at approximately 52,500 miles less wear and tear on my cars and me as the driver. (Peter might argue the point but I find it is far more relaxing being a passenger.)

Putting that into pounds, shilling and pence, car sharing has saved me around 3,500 miles a year. Taking current diesel prices into account (£1.42 a litre) and with a 44.2 MPG return on my current car, this works out at 360L – which equates to a saving of over £500 for fuel alone in the last 12 months.

No Photo Finish this week - The Beast is having a rest

Catch you next time


  1. Great blog Mr B and a wonderful swansong for Mr Walker. :-)

    1. Thank You Sarah - I'm not so sure PW thinks so....

  2. I make a terrible passenger but car sharing is always a good idea.
    Good for the wallet and the environment

    1. You can't be as bad a passenger as Peter - Not allowing the roof down on even the warmest of days and making funny squeaking noises every time I corned on two wheels. Hard as I tried I never managed to get it onto one wheel…

  3. We had a Volvo. It was like driving a tank. A dear friend described the colour (he was ex army) as camel shit brown. Once we graduated to something more modern we offered it to our teenage children. They had to drape themselves over the furniture, laughter having weakened them so.

    1. Your poor children they should have reported you for cruelty –

  4. my commute was from my bedroom to our breakfast room or wherever i'd left my laptop the night before, so i'm certainly no expert on ridesharing, but i do applaud your contribution to saving the planet! ;~) (i hate being a passenger, i'd rather drive!) xoxo AND, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    1. You could always offer anyone staying in your house a piggyback....Dropping in was my pleasure and I'm sure I will make it back.

  5. Reading a paper map is great. Unless you happen to be driving at the time.
    Then, it's better to use the dashboard GPS. I love how I programmed mine. Nothing quite beats hearing "Recalculating" in a British woman's accent.

    1. I must admit I always have the sound off - I spend so much time going a different route the poor Tom Tomth starts overheating and gets quite abusive....

      Or is that Mrs B…

      No can’t be Mrs B, I haven’t found her mute button yet, unless you count driving around a corner too quickly so that she ends up banging her head on the side window and lulls into an unconscious state….


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