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Cars these days are really good.

New-ish cars hardly ever break down, they go quite fast and they are quite economical.
Compared to old-ish cars that is.

It all seems more convenient.

I have been driving for a while now, I have had the catalogue of driver’s experiences with cars.

I remember feeling terribly worried that there was no fresh oil leak under the car because that meant it had no oil in it at all.
I drilled holes in the bottom of one car to let the water out.
I had a car that you had to climb underneath and snip the chord that was holding the bonnet down to fill the screen wash.
I used to drive a work van that had a green dashboard. The plastic was black, the mould was green.
I have spent my share of hours on the edge of motorways waiting for assistance.

I do all of these things less than I used to.

I still experience problems but I generally feel that I will probably get where I need to go if I get in the car.

I think cars have got better.

I am not sure this is really a good thing.
I am not sure it is a ‘right’ to be able to drive, I think it is probably a ‘privilege’.

We are not really supposed to drive.
We don’t have wheels.
A car is made up of an awful lot of processed and refined products and no matter how Eco your car is it is still the product of several factories and earth killing processes.

I am not going to give mine up though.
I just find it curious that I am so happy to accept that I need it.

I can feel the gentle pull towards car culture in Britain.

Part of the back bone of our construction industry is out of town shopping centres.

We need to drive to them.
Once we do they are really convenient.
Better than the high street in town.
So the high street dies.
So we have to use out of town shopping centres, convenient or not.

I watch the speed of the cars coming past my house in the morning.
I can hear some of them changing up into third gear on our hill.
There are no real pavements on our hill and with parked cars on both sides there is only room for single lane traffic.

It is scary how fast people drive up that hill.
Parents with children on the way to school.
Scares me every morning.

You couldn’t do that in an old car.

I do it too, on roads where I don’t live.

We were making crumble today and I found to my horror that the tin I thought was custard was in fact rice pudding.

Dinner was on, the Proles were washing hands after the creation of the crumble.
Apple and mixed berries by the way.

I had three choices.

No Custard on Crumble.
This seems like no choice at all if you ask me.

Turn off oven, go out in pouring rain, get Custard from shop.
It was raining. Dinner would probably be ruined. Crumble would be ok though….

Send Prole1 out in the pouring rain to get Custard from shop.
We have, just around the corner from us, what used to be referred to as a ‘convenience store’.
Prole1 does not eat custard but if I dress it up as an adventure and ‘responsibility’ he might just go for it.

Prole1: I don’t eat custard.

Me: I know, it’s just that dinner is on and I can’t leave the oven.

Prole1: I see. I don’t eat custard.

Me: I know  but it would mean a lot to me and your brother if you could do it.

Prole1: It’s raining. I don’t eat custard.

Me; Well, you are the only one I can send out on a day like this. You are the only one responsible enough to take on an adventure like this.

Prole2: What?

Me:Your brother is going to get some custard.

Prole1: What?

Prole2: Yaaay!

Prole1: Wait a minute, it’s raining.

Prole2: I will go too.

Now.
I don’t know if you know how old the Proles are and I don’t want to start a debate here.

I will tell you what I think.

Prole1 is sharper than I am but gets confused with ‘push’ and ‘pull’ on doors.
Prole2 is a quirky, skippy little bubble head who falls over a lot.

Prole1 can go to the nearest shop on his own.
It is close by, it is just round the corner and it has an automatic door.
He has done this once before and from what I can gather from his garbled report after his return he spent several happy minutes talking to the people in the queue who have no doubt now reported us to child services.

Prole2 will not be allowed out of this house alone until he stops putting his trousers on the right way round.

But….

We did not have any Custard…

I could not leave the house…

Prole1 could, in theory, repeat his visit to the shop…

Prole1 would not leave the house without someone who eats custard going with him…

I could, in theory, send them both.

When I was their age I used to cycle to friends houses, go exploring in the countryside and pick up shopping in the village.
That was the 1970s.

How different could it be?
All they had to do was get across the road outside our house and it was pretty much a straight run to the shop.

Was this going to develop into a tantrum? or an opportunity to develop responsibility and self esteem? or an utter and total disaster that would tear our daily apart once and for all?

But we still didn’t have any custard.

And you can’t have Crumble without custard.
Unless you are Prole1.

But…

They might die on the road or get snatched by child molesters.

And I wondered how long I would feel like not letting them go out for.
Another year?
Two?
Ever?
Only once they can drive?

So…

I got their coats on.
I gave them a bag and adjusted it on Prole1’s shoulder.
I gave him two pounds and watched him store it in his pocket.
I gave him his instructions, to look out for his brother and to not come home without custard.
I took all the lego out of Prole2’s pockets.
I told him Prole1 was in charge.
I told him to do everything he was told.

I hugged them both like soldiers going off to war.

I saw them across the road and watched them turn, out of sight, towards the shop.

I was a nervous wreck.

I burned the onions.

Every time a car went past I jogged nonchalantly to the door and peered out.

Finally I saw them, two dots in the rain.

They approached the road.

It was all clear.

They looked.

They looked.

It was all clear.

Prole1 pulled Prole back against the wall.

Something had obviously spooked him.

Prole2 pointed up the hill.

They looked.

Prole1 pointed down the hill.

They looked. I decide to get my coat and help.

It was all clear.

They had a bit of a chat.

They looked again. My coat was on.

A large van sped past the house and barrelled down the road towards them.

The Proles were looking the other way.

Prole1 led the way to the place where the curb would be if our stupid hill had pavements.

They looked down the hill.

The van was almost on top of them.

They looked up the hill.

They waited.

The van slowed to a stop and let them cross.

Prole1 waved to the driver and they came home.

I have taught them to cross the road over the years.
At some point I have to trust.
I don’t want to.

I know what it is like to lose someone close to you.
I know what it feels like when someone dies.
I am not a stupid man and I don’t really risk my children’s lives over a pudding.

I am so scared.

I know that if I think too much about how fast cars go these days I would never put my children in one.

I know that if I think too much about the speed people drive up and down my hill I would never let the boys out of the house.

I don’t ever want to sink that low or feel that much ever again and I know that each and every one of us could go at any minute.

But…

I can’t live in fear forever, I have to let things grow.

Either this world is one I want my children to live in or it is not.

How will I ever know if I don’t let them test it?

That is enough for this month though.

We sat on the sofa for pudding and watched cartoons.

Nice crumble.
Nice custard.

Perhaps convenience is not everything you need in life.

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