Half savage, hardy and free

“I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy and free.”

Emily Brontë, poet, novelist and author of one of my favourite books, was born on this day two hundred years ago.

I probably don’t need to tell you the title of the book, since not only was it Emily’s only novel- she died a year after its publication at the age of thirty- but also because it has taken on a life of it’s own, becoming more widely known than the author herself.

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Wuthering Heights was published in 1847, initially under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, and it wasn’t until two years after her death that Emily’s own name appeared as author of the work, shocking all those who believed that a story of such passion, violence and cruelty could only have been written by a man.

Passion, violence and cruelty are absolutely the corner stones of the novel, as anyone who has read it will undoubtedly agree, but there is more to Wuthering Heights than just that, or at least there is for me.

Wuthering Heights seems to be a sort of literary Marmite. There are those like me, who love it, and those who hate it, and there seems to be very few people in-between. I’m sure some of the polarity in opinion stems as much from circumstance of reading, as from the book itself, since much of it’s readership these days is enforced via academia. I was fortunate enough to miss it as a prescribed text, and only read it for the first time as an adult.

I’ve spoken before about the importance of timing when it comes to reading. How certain books arrive at a particular point in your life, and how at any other time they might not have had the same impact. I think a lot of my favourites are a combination of brilliant writing and perfect timing, and Wuthering Heights is no exception. The following circumstances probably all helped with my enjoyment of the book:

  • I was reading it for pleasure, rather than to be quizzed on it’s ‘themes’ at a later date
  • I was already a fan of Gothic fiction
  • Wuthering Heights hadn’t been over-hyped to me, so I went in with few expectations
  • As a Yorkshire lass, like Emily herself, I could read the occasional passages of Yorkshire dialect and hear them just as though they were spoken out loud, rather than staring at a row of seemingly unconnected letters wondering what on earth ‘Hathecliff’s noan t’chap tuh coom ut maw whistle- happen he’ll be less hard uh hearing wi ye!’ means

If any one of those factors had been missing, perhaps Wuthering Heights wouldn’t have had quite the impact it did on me. But then again…perhaps it would. Because let’s not pretend it isn’t an incredible piece of literature in its own right.

Wuthering Heights is incredible not just because it was written by a young woman at a time when young women didn’t write, and certainly didn’t write *things like that*. And not just because it has gone on to inspire adaptation after adaptation, along with other creative works, such as Kate Bush’s legendary, chart-topping record of the same name, which put the young singer-songwriter down in history as the first number one single both written and performed by a female artist.

Even without all of that, even with just Emily Brontë’s words, on the page, it would have been enough to secure a spot in my heart.

The main complaints I hear about Wuthering Heights are that a. it is not a romance and b. all the characters are terrible. And I’m here to tell you that both of these assertions are absolutely 100% true.

The main plot is about the romance between Cathy and Heathcliff, and it contains Gothic romance elements, but for a book to be classified as a Romance in the strictest sense the two main characters must achieve a ‘Happily Ever After’ or at the very least a ‘Happy For Now’. No one in Wuthering Heights is truly happy, ever. And as for the characters? They are all deeply flawed, and for the most part wholly unlikeable. Sounds like a barrel of laughs, doesn’t it? I bet those of you who haven’t read it are dying to get your hands on a copy now 😉

Well, you should.

Because despite the unrelenting misery it is a masterpiece. And in an age where characters and public figures are expected to be inspirational, relatable, and likeable, reading about self-absorbed Cathy and the vengeful, hate-filled Heathcliff, along with their supporting cast of similarly irredeemable characters is a breath of fresh air, the likes of which you could only otherwise get on a brisk moorland walk.

The setting itself is perfection, and indeed the story wouldn’t work anywhere else. The wild Yorkshire moors serve as symbolism for the wilds of Cathy and Heathcliff’s tumultuous relationship and the eerie isolation fulfils the Gothic element, although in truth I doubt that was Emily’s reason for choosing to set the story where she did. It seems infinitely more likely that it was a case of ‘writing what you know’ and where better to set this sprawling tale of love and hatred across generations than the sprawling Yorkshire countryside in which the author herself lived?

The title of this blog post comes from one of the books popular quotes, one I have typed so many times now that my phone’s predictive text feature now suggests it whenever I type the words ‘I wish…’

It’s from a passage in chapter 12 of the book when *spoiler alert* Cathy falls ill, after a fight between herself, Heathcliff and Linton:

“I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy and free…and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them! Why am I so changed? Why does my blood rush into a hell of tumult at a few words? I’m sure I should be myself were I once among the heather on those hills…Open the window again wide, fasten it open!…”

I love the line, not just because it so perfectly embodies a feeling so many of us have had- about how easy it would be to live our adult lives as though we were still children, when nothing bothered us for very long, because we existed out of reach of expectation and beyond even the barriers of physical pain, but also because it seems to sum up not just Cathy, or even her creator Emily, but the entire book as a whole.

Wuthering Heights is a half-savage, hardy and free novel that like Cathy herself, refuses to conform and ruins all hope of happiness in doing so, and yet, like Cathy is wild, breathless and lovely. And Heathcliff- what of the dark, brooding, Byronic hero? He is, without a doubt, bitter, vindictive and certainly in the latter parts of the book- mentally unhinged, but like Cathy, I found that I loved him anyway. Not because I believe him redeemable necessarily, but because I know from experience that it is possible to love people who are not, and to know that they are not, and yet not feel that love any less keenly. And in that at least, Catherine Earnshaw and I have something in common.

So happy birthday Emily Brontë, with tremendous thanks. And if you’ve never read Wuthering Heights, or your memory of it is tainted by a GCSE English Literature paper, then why not check a copy out of your local library, and let me know if you’re a lover or a hater.

 

 

 

 

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Status Update

You may remember in my last post I talked about having entered Theatre Cloud‘s Gothic Fiction project and being shortlisted. Well I’m super excited to announce that I came in second place!

You can read all about the winning entries here. And you can watch actor Sam Johnson reading my entry aloud (!!) here:

 

Or if you’d prefer to read it for yourself, here it is…

Status Update

by R L Holland

The messages came through thick and fast, her phone chiming her awake.

‘Saw your status update- good for you!’

Various emojis.

A series of question marks:

‘?????’

She had no idea, either.

What status update? She hadn’t been online for weeks. Holed up, as she was in the middle of nowhere. It was a miracle that the messages had made it through.

There must be a patch of signal out there somewhere. She pressed a hand to the cold glass and peered into the night.

She found an oil lamp under the sink in the spartan kitchen, and rubber boots in the draughty hall. She pulled a flimsy cagoule over her pyjamas, and she was ready. The door clicked shut behind her, and she trudged along the darkened track, her phone aloft.

Searching…it said. The sea murmured at the cliffs below. Finally- a flicker of a bar.

She tapped the screen impatiently, until a sentence illuminated the night.

‘I’m ready for a change- my new life begins tomorrow!’

Her own face stared back, unblinking. It was an old photo, but she loved it. The silly hat, her expression- it was so her. But it wasn’t her. She hadn’t written that.

She checked the time stamp- one hour ago. She’d been sleeping. Yet another evening where she’d dozed off, notepad in hand, pen behind her ear. Maybe she’d been hacked? She checked the location of the status, turning warily towards the house as she did, her eyes straining in the dark.

But she was the only person for miles around. That had been part of the allure- nothing, and no-one to interrupt her. She looked down at the phone in her hand. A mistake, that’s all. She would delete it, explain later.

A cracking twig underfoot, and a gull wheeling overhead. Her throat leapt into her mouth, and she stumbled. The wire fence caught her, a spray of pebbles crashing into the water below.

And in the bedroom window, a silhouette. A hand, pressed against the glass.

Impossible, she shook her head. The effect was dizzying. Her phone vibrated to life in her palm, and she almost dropped it into the mud, sweating, swearing.

Unknown number.

“Hello?” Her voice sounded alien in the thick, black night.

“It’s midnight.”

She felt the ground shift beneath her, heard the roar of blood in her ears, the roar of the ocean below. She grasped the fence for purchase, the wire biting into her skin.

“Who are you?” But the screen was blank. Her phone, dead.

“It’s my life!” She screamed the words over the crashing spray. “You can’t have it!”

She stumbled, the boots too big, the ground too wet.

“No, it’s mine.”

She whirled to see who had spoken. Losing her grip on the fence, on reality. Her back hit the ground with a slap. Her mind spun.

“I’m ready for a change- my new life begins tomorrow,” she whispered to the stars. She closed her eyes, and felt the world slip away.

 

National Writing Day

I’m dropping by my sadly neglected blog to wish all my readers a Happy National Writing Day! Ironic, or what? The truth is, I’m not sure what my long-term plan is for this blog. On the one hand, I rarely blog anymore, but on the other, I can see from my site stats that people do still stop by now and again- often lead here by search terms relating to CIDP or Guillain-Barre or miscarriage, so I’m reluctant to retire the blog if it’s still helping people in some small way.

I keep flirting with the idea of blogging more regularly, with more of a focus on books and writing, but I’m not sure if that’s what most people are here for, and in any case- I don’t have a particularly good track record when it comes to regular scheduled blogging (as I’m sure you may have noticed!)

However I have been doing plenty of writing ‘behind the scenes’, and since it is National Writing Day, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to:

2017

  • Published my YA contemporary novel ‘Deja Vu’ on Wattpad and had lots of lovely feedback from the small number of folk who read it 🙂
  • Entered a short story ‘Inner Beauty’ into a Beauty & The Beast inspired writing contest on Wattpad and was shortlisted into the top ten entries
  • Entered the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and Mslexia Short Story Contest
  • Submitted a short story to an anthology
  • Plotted out an entire YA supernatural trilogy and started writing it
  • Wrote a 130k word contemporary romance under a pseudonymn
  • Started writing another contemporary romance under a pseudonym

2018

  • Entered a Pitch Contest on Twitter and was invited to submit my contemporary romance MS to a publishing editor (!)
  • Entered a short story ‘Status Update’ into Theatre Cloud’s Gothic Fiction Project and was shortlisted into the top ten entries
  • Still working on my YA supernatural trilogy and editing my second romance novel

You might have noticed I’ve included things on there that aren’t really ‘accomplishments’ in the strictest sense (like submitting to a contest or anthology but not being shortlisted/chosen) but that’s because I think it’s important to recognise that putting work out there is an achievement in itself, even if it doesn’t lead to recognition or reward. I am very guilty of a. moving the goal posts on myself and b. playing down my accomplishments, so listing all the things I’ve done to push myself forward, even if nothing has come of it, is one of the ways I’m trying to combat that.

I think one of the hardest things about writing- particularly writing with the aim of publication, is just *keeping going* even when nothing seems to be happening, and I have felt that acutely at times this year, as I’ve attempted to squeeze writing time in between work and family and general life and then wondered ‘why am I bothering?’ and ‘does this even matter?’

The truth is, that some days I don’t know if it does. I don’t kid myself I am writing anything revolutionary, that will cause ripples throughout the history of the human race, but then that was never my goal. My goal is simply to write- to get ideas out of my head and onto paper, and to share those words with others. And yes, in time, to hopefully earn some money doing that, and to feel like my words are having an impact, even if it’s just making someone smile, or laugh or cry, or feel less alone in their experience.

So I keep plodding on, putting one word after another, reminding myself that this is who I am, this is what I do, and that alone is a good enough reason to keep going.

 

 

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2017 Reading Round-Up

I always feel so disingenuous sweeping in at the end of the year to give a closing speech on my blog, that- let’s face it- has been horribly neglected for most of the year.

On the other hand though, what’s the use in me keeping the blog, if not to share things on it? Like for example, the books I read in 2017.

So, here goes…

In 2017 I started 44 books, and I finished 40 of them.  That’s a pretty standard drop-off rate for me, exactly the same as 2016 in fact.  Gone are the days when I forced myself to finish every single book I started.  Since having kids I’ve become a lot more forgiving of myself if I can’t make it to the end, and in fact sometimes I start a book and almost immediately put it down- not because it’s terrible, but because I think its probably wonderful- just not right now.  There’s definitely an element of timing for me, when it comes to reading, and I have to be in the mood for certain stories.

This year has been quite difficult for a variety of reasons- both on a personal and global level, and that had undoubtedly affected my reading life too.  Of the 44 books I picked up, only 3 were non-fiction.  Basically, I was done with reality and looking for an escape.  For the same reason, 14 out of the 44 books were romances.  Like many other bookworms, I expect, I just needed to know that SOMEONE SOMEWHERE was getting a Happily Ever After, even if that someone was a fictional character in the regency era.  I read Tessa Dare’s Romancing the Duke not once, but twice this year, and it was like a literary poultice for my aching soul.  In fact, I may yet leave an amazon review that says exactly that.  Seriously, if historical romance is your thing, you should add it to your 2018 TBR list.

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Similarly, 12 of the books I finished this year were re-reads.  There’s just something comforting about reading a book you’ve already read (in my case, possibly several times), when you know the ending, but enjoy the journey nonetheless.  So I revisited The Infernal Devices- the YA trilogy by Cassandra Clare, for what must have been the 4th or 5th time, and still fell hopelessly in love with her supernatural, steampunk-inspired Victorian London, and the trio of main characters- Tessa, Will and Jem.  And, as with every other time I’ve read it- the epilogue of Clockwork Princess made me literally sob, which shows that even when you know what the outcome of something will be, you can still become fully absorbed to the extent that you’ll have a physical, emotional reaction to it.

For those of you who like a good statistic, this was the numerical breakdown:

TOTAL BOOKS STARTED: 44

TOTAL BOOKS FINISHED: 40

 FICTION: 41

NON FICTION: 3

LIBRARY BOOKS: 15

E-BOOKS: 10

NEW (TO ME) BOOKS: 32

RE-READS: 12

That’s a massive increase in Kindle books compared to last year when I only read one e-book in the whole of 2016.  That is partly a result of a. my CIDP flaring up a couple of times, making it difficult for me to hold books for long periods, and b. the fact I got a brand new Kindle Fire HD for Christmas 🙂 so my final two books of the year I read on that.

There was also a decrease in the amount of library books I read, but that doesn’t actually correlate in any way to the amount of library books I borrowed– I still find it almost impossible to come home empty-handed from work, it’s just that they’re all stacking up precariously in my living room as I renew them over and over and over…something I should possibly work on in 2018 *whispers* You can only read one book at a time, Rebecca…

So, of the 40, what were my favourites?  Some years that’s an almost impossible question, but this year a few titles really stand out.  For a start, 2017 was the year that I read Jane Eyre for the first time.

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I know, I know, I almost can’t believe it’s true either.  For some reason, I- a lover of the Bronte sisters, and gothic literature, and Byronic heroes- managed to get to 32 years of age without becoming acquainted with Jane and her Mr Rochester.  In a way, I’m sorry I didn’t come to it sooner, knowing that if I had, I’d probably have re-read it forty million times already, but in another way, I’m almost glad I saved it until now- because what a delicious treat it was in the middle of what was in many ways an utterly ludicrous year.  And there was something so perfect about it’s timing in my life too, as Jane wrestled between what was right and what was easy, holding herself and others to exacting moral standards, I found myself exploring similar questions in my own life, and being surprised by my answers.  So yes, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte=  an instant, hands-down favourite, not just of 2017 but of all-time.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee, a YA historical with a bisexual main character, also undoubtedly became one of my immediate favourites.  I scarcely put it down from the minute I picked it up- and it was a brand-new, hefty hardback, so that’s an impressive feat for me with my feeble wrists.  I adored Monty, the main character and Mackenzie Lee’s writing style is brilliant so I was immediately swept up in the adventure.  It was rare case of me having heard about a book in advance of it’s release, and suggesting it as a purchase for the library, which meant that I was the first to get it when it arrived, and for once I wasn’t disappointed.  So many times, when a book is hyped up, or I care enough to pre-order it, I get to the last page to find it isn’t all I’d hoped, but with this one it absolutely was.  So if it sounds like your thing, definitely check it out.

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There was also Romancing the Duke, which I’ve already mentioned, A Tale of Two Cities- which I finally got round to finishing about 5 years after I first started it, and adored (although it isn’t exactly what you’d call easy-reading, but then Dickens rarely is), The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, which was a delicious piece of straight-up storytelling, and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, which left me breathless, literally.  It did absolutely nothing for my anxiety, but I loved it all the same.  The suspense was intolerable and at one point I put the book down and actually physically pushed it away, as though by distancing myself from the words, I could escape the inevitable conclusion the characters were marching toward.

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So, there we have it- another year in books.

I don’t have any goals for 2018 when it comes to reading- whether I read more or less is irrelevant, just so long as I’m reading and enjoying it.  One thing I have vowed though, is not to leave the books I got for Christmas languishing on my TBR shelves, which means my first few reads of 2018 are all set and will definitely include The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman, and Bad Boy by Elliot Wake

I hope you all had a good reading year too.  If you discovered any new favourites in 2017, I’d love to hear about them 🙂

 

 

 

Still Here

In case anyone was wondering!

Apologies for the lack of posts over the summer, turns out that having two jobs, and two kids and trying to write a book is ever so slightly time consuming, and doesn’t leave time for much else!

Also *types under breath* I kind of hate summer and find it one of my most difficult times of year.  There, said it.  I know it’s a hugely unpopular opinion, but for me summer is mainly sweating, getting migraines from the sun, and trying to cram in as much QUALITY FAMILY TIME with my kids as possible whilst battling the urge to strangle them when I step on yet another mothafucking piece of lego with goddam bare feet.  This summer has been an odd one because I’ve been working four days a week, so I’ve not been around much and then when I have, I’ve felt this incredible pressure for us to have Perfect Family Fun together, which rarely if ever works out how I envisage it.

We have had some good times though, and thanks to Chris taking some annual leave each week to be home with the boys, they’ve enjoyed having him around a bit more and not missed me too much, I don’t think.

My new job is going…ehhh…well, it’s going anyway.  My CIDP is behaving itself, and the book I’m writing is the slowest project ever but it’s keeping me sane (ish).

And honestly, that’s pretty much it.  Every now and again I think about archiving this place, since I’m not really actively blogging anymore, but then I see people finding old posts about CIDP/Molar pregnancy/Miscarriage etc through their google searches, and I think- ‘well what if reading about my experiences helps someone?’  So it’s staying, for now.

Who knows, maybe one day when I have more time (not clear when that’ll be, but let’s play pretend) I’ll be a bit more active (and possibly even witty?!) but for now, this will have to do 😉

 

 

 

New Beginnings

Happy 1st May / Beltane Blessings!

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I thought I’d better brush aside some of the tumbleweed blowing through this place, after only posting once in the entire month of April.  In my defence I’ve been very busy, but I look set to get even busier in the coming weeks so I thought I’d better at least say hello and give a brief update for anyone who’s interested, before disappearing again for a few weeks!

This time last year I was on the verge of some big changes, and had some major decisions to make, so on the 30th April, aka Beltane, I lit some candles, got myself a cold beer and sat cross legged on my bed and dug deep to figure out what it was I wanted and needed to do in the coming months.  Looking back now, I can see how important those decisions were, and appreciate how brutally honest I was with myself that evening.

So again last night I did the same thing, (except, switch beer for wine, and add some dubious-smelling incense into the mix), and this morning I’m feeling good about the challenges that lie ahead.

This summer I’ll be starting a new job (probably within the next couple of weeks), starting therapy (this Wednesday) and starting a brand-new writing project  The job is back at my old hospital, although in a very different role, the therapy is high-intensity CBT, and the writing project is a young-adult fairytale with a twist.  All of which I’m pretty excited about (well, I don’t know that I’d say ‘excited’ for the therapy actually, but…’positive’, maybe?!)

Between those three things I’m not sure how I’m going to have time for much else to be honest, but I will try to share as much as I can about my experiences, in case it helps anyone else.

I’m still posting my YA contemporary over on Wattpad, and I have a loyal fan base of about ten readers (most of whom are friends/family) who are consistently reading every chapter update and telling me they’re enjoying it, which I think is all most of us really want when we share our work, so I’m calling it a success so far.  I’ve also been pushing myself outside my comfort zone in other ways, like entering writing contests, submitting short stories for anthologies, and taking up burlesque dancing!

My CIDP continues to be well-managed and I’m hoping to reduce my dose of immunoglobulins over the summer months, and my PCOS is also behaving, so for once I don’t feel like I’m using up half my energy in a battle of wills with my own body.

Generally, aside from crippling anxiety, (which the therapy will hopefully help with), and a distinct lack of money (which the job should surely help with), life is good.  (Although obviously I hate typing that for fear of jinxing myself in some way, damn anxiety.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Year Without A Car

One year ago we sold our car and braced ourselves for living the next twelve months car-free.  I’d love to say this was a purely experimental move, for environmental and social reasons, but the truth is we were skint and couldn’t afford to run a car anymore.  So for the past year we’ve been entirely at the mercy of public transport, aside from the occasional lift from friends and family/rare taxi to the hospital.

When we made the decision, I intended to document our journey, from a family who’d always had a car (at least since having kids) to one trying to navigate life without, and I even went so far as setting up separate twitter, instagram and blog accounts specifically to post about our experience.  However, after writing two blog posts and taking a handful of pictures of the kids waiting for a bus/train, I discovered a few things…the first of which, was that what we were doing- what we still are doing- is not actually remarkable at all.

I actually knew this already, having grown up in a working class family with parents who didn’t drive.  My childhood consisted of bus trips and looooong walks everywhere.  So I already knew that going without a car didn’t make us special in any way, so much as remarkably privileged that this was the first time we were having to factor bus times/fares into our daily lives.  And although Chris did grow-up with a car, he has always commuted to work on public transport, so for him it hasn’t been such a radical change, although I’m sure he’ll agree that it’s still been a massive pain in the arse in many ways.

And that’s the other thing I discovered- that not only did I feel silly documenting something so very ordinary, but also, journeys were often such an absolute ball ache that the idea of reliving them in a blog post, to debate the pros/cons of taking the train vs the car, was just…well…urgh is the noise that springs to mind.

But, our year is almost up, and I have a new job (yippee), which means a car could soon become a real possibility once again (double yippee) so to mark our ‘year without’, I thought I’d do a basic round-up post of what it’s been like.

CONS

Buses are rarely on time.  We live on one of the busiest bus routes in Europe, buses into the city centre are supposed to be every 3 minutes at peak-times.  They are not.  My frequent experience is of waiting for one for between 10 and 15 minutes, and then having two or three turn up at once.  I don’t know how people in more suburban/rural areas manage without a car.  It’s genuinely inconceivable to me.  The only reason it has felt do-able for us, is being so close to the city centre with it’s multiple tram stops/train stations/bus services.

Public transport is inordinately expensive.  A day ticket on the bus for an adult costs £4.30.  A family ticket is £8.50.  We got a family and friends railcard which has made local train journeys much more affordable, but we’ve yet to use it to go anywhere further afield, because even with the extra money off, train fares are pricey, plus the idea of more than an hour on a train with the kids makes me feel a bit wobbly at the knees.

Which leads me onto my next point very nicely.  Motion sickness.  I’ve always had it, but thought I’d grown out of it as an adult.  Turns out, what actually happened was that I just learnt to drive and never went on transport for more than ten minutes at a time.  That’s obviously had to change this past year, and I’ve spent a lot of journeys staring resolutely out of the window and looking very green around the gills.

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(me, every time I’m forced to ride on a hot bus/go backwards on a train)

Public transport forces you to interact with strangers.  Rude bus drivers that you’re then at the mercy of until you reach your destination.  People with differing hygiene standards, and musical tastes to your own.  People with no concept of personal space.  People who can’t think of a better way to pass their journey than to spend it judging your parenting.  They’re all right there, and you can’t get away from them.

Which again leads nicely onto another major con- kids on transport.  When we had a car, yes the kids would sometimes ‘act up’ in the back- hitting each other with a Buzz Lightyear, spilling raisins all over the footwell, waiting until I’m in the outside lane of the M60 doing 85mph to tell me that they’re ‘desperate’ for a wee, etc etc.  But at the end of the day, they weren’t bugging anyone other than us.  Chris could turn in his seat and offer some kind of bribe/threat, I could pull the car off at the next services to use the toilets, whatever.  On public transport- when they’re tired, and want to slump across two seats and fall asleep on a commuter train, when they spill food everywhere, when they whine ‘are we nearly there yet’, you’ve got to be prepared with entertainment (no cd player remember!) and snacks, and reasons why they should stop kicking the chair in front, or why they shouldn’t lick the window, and if they need a wee?  Well good luck with that.

Basically you have no control.  Which for a control-freak is so bloody difficult.  Knowing I could leave my house two hours before an appointment and still not get there on time, because I’m not in charge is infuriating and mind-boggling.

Your world feels a lot smaller.  The only times we’ve ventured outside of the city limits have been either to visit family and friends, or when we’ve actually rented a car for the week and decided to make the most of our freedom.  Most of the time we’ve just bumbled around locally, because anything else is a. supreme effort and b. bloody expensive.

Also, over the winter, when my anxiety was bad and there was a spate of assaults in my local area, I felt totally trapped in my own home after dark.  With the car I’d have had no problem nipping out to the supermarket, or to a dance class or wherever, but faced with the prospect of walking places on my own in the pitch black?  No thanks.

Weather.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s generally shit.  And when you’re actually trudging through it in the dark with two miserable kids carrying school bags. and PE kits, and a week’s worth of shopping, then you really fucking FEEL IT, in a way that you don’t when you’re dashing between the front-door and the car.

Which leads me onto- shopping.  So many people urged us to do grocery deliveries, not perhaps fully appreciating that the reason we gave up the car was because we were TOTALLY SKINT.  So paying for someone to drop the shopping off seemed like a luxury that we couldn’t afford.  Hence, more frequent shopping trips and only buying what you can carry (which for me, with my CIDP, and generally piss-poor upper-body strength, is not all that much, it turns out.)

PROS

There has to be some…right?!  Well- yes.  The biggest pro, and the reason we did this was to save money.  We’ve probably saved about £300 a month (the cost of car finance, car insurance, car tax, and the annual MOT combined.)  We haven’t saved on petrol because the car was really economical, and because that money has been spent on transport instead.  So yes, if your car running costs are high (i.e. if you’re paying your car off in instalments, or live in a high insurance area etc) then you will definitely save money, providing you don’t just get taxis everywhere instead of course.

Another pro (I guess?) is that there was a certain novelty value for the first couple of months.  The kids had been on buses/trains before but not very frequently, so they were pretty enthusiastic about our transport adventures to begin with, which probably buoyed us a little too.  And it’s made me more confident on transport (knowing which stop to get buses from in Piccadilly, and even using the metro for the first time all by myself!)

Environmentally, I figure our impact will have been minimal, but NOT having the car definitely made me realise how many ‘quick trips’ I used to use it for, just because it was there, so that’s something I’ll consciously try to avoid if/when we get a car again in the future.

Which I guess leads onto another pro- which is that health wise I’ve had to do a lot of fucking walking.  We all have.  So that’s something.

And finally- daydreaming.  You can’t do that behind the wheel at high speeds.  Long bus journeys, especially if you sit at the front upstairs, jam your headphones in and resolutely refuse to make eye contact with anyone, can be really good for the imagination.  I have done so much people-watching this way, and thinking-time is always hugely beneficial for creativity.

______________

So, there you have it.  A project I intended to space out over 52 blog posts across twelve months, I’ve just summarised (probably quite badly) in one.

The fact is, if you’re in a position to weigh-up the pros and cons, i.e. you can actually afford to run a car without getting yourself into crippling debt, then to be honest, it’s probably worth it.  Unless you live and work in a city centre, and don’t have a driver’s licence, which is possibly the only scenario I could imagine being car-free NOT being a major pain in the ass.  But for anyone else- especially people with kids, then I wouldn’t recommend it.  Unless you don’t have a choice- in which case, my pros and cons aren’t going to be relevant anyway.  Needs must when the devil drives, and all that.

flintstones

(Our new ride, probably.)