I had to be in Corfe Mullen by 9.30am. It’s 37 miles from where we live. In normal circumstances that would be a very pleasant 75 mile round trip through Dorset with one or two challenging slopes to get the heart racing.
But of course it would mean leaving early and then after a day’s work getting back late. So instead I caught the 7.13 to Southampton Central and then from there the coastal stopping train to Weymouth getting off at Hamworthy. (Hamworthy is one of those great anonymous stations that feel like Adlestrop – No one left and no one came on the bare platform). From there it was a four or five mile bike ride up the hill to Corfe Mullen. So 37 miles each way became a 175 mile round trip.
Now some people think this is a waste of time. It isn’t because I did two hours’ work on the train both ways which I would certainly not have been able to do in the car. (And yes a certain amount of staring out of the window at the beauty of the New Forest – a wooded field of five donkeys were standing in the early sun).
Some people think it is stupid because the car is so much more convenient. The real stupidity, however, is that our lives are now ruled by the car. Everything is organised in such a way that life becomes difficult if you don’t have access to one. Everything is organised around the car. It is no longer an aid to easy living. It rules our lives.
There is also a hidden inequality here. The Church of England depends completely on cars. Today’s diocesan meeting could not have happened without people with cars.
And the green argument remains. I reckon that the people who came today would have driven 5000 miles between them, coming from Marlborough, Bradford on Avon and Lyme Regis and elsewhere, which would take one car most of the way from London to South Africa.