My mum is dying. She’s not had a bad innings – she’s 88 – but she’s recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (after months of the NHS telling her it was diabetes, but that’s another story). Since she won’t be around much longer, we wanted to go and pay her a visit. My wife and a couple of my kids thought they should do the same, and the dog volunteered too, not least because that meant she could visit my sister’s dog and generally have a good time.
Now, mother lives in Yorkshire, which is a bit of a schlep, and the chattering classes would have one believe that one should use public transport and bicycles to travel everywhere, lest the polar bears shall have no pack-ice, and the children will all get emphysema.
Since I don’t have a car suitable for carrying 4 adults, their overnight bags and a dog over this distance, I investigated hiring one. Enterprise would let me have a medium-sized 4×4 (a Nissan X-Trail as it happened) for £150. I had to put £70’s worth of diesel in it to return the fuel gauge to ¾ full when I returned it, as per the rental agreement. A lovely chap at the rental company explained the controls, jet-washed the car and had it vacuumed, and we were on our way. The car had a fantastic sound system, Bluetooth for the phones, aircon, leather seats, a massive glass panoramic roof and lot of other toys. We hooted with laughter as we journeyed along, and it took us almost exactly 5 hours each way. It was quiet (except when extended), comfortable and relaxing. The fact it handled like a truffle-pig when pressing on meant little on this journey.
Having returned, I thought I’d check out the Left Wing/ Green Party alternative. To hit the same arrival time, and to travel 1st class, which I think matched our Nissan experience, would have cost £548. FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY EIGHT POUNDS. Therefore, by the time you’ve added in minicabs at either end to get us to and from the relevant houses, you’re looking at the thick end of £575. You don’t have to be Fermat to work out this is over 2.5 times the cost of the car, and would have taken us 30-40 minutes longer each way. Not to mention lugging overnight bags and the dog between three different trains. By the way, if we’d gone slightly earlier on Saturday and come back later Sunday, make that £1,540.
So I’m sorry polar bears and people who knit your own shoes out of muesli. Public transport is slow and bloody expensive, and the car remains the best way of getting around. Not least because I don’t have to put up with the inane conversations/ noisy eating/ smell of Ginsters/ hissing iPods and gawd knows what else on the train. Plus a half-eaten Jalfrezi in the footwell of the minicab.
It’s distressing enough having to see your mum looking like a human skeleton with clearly not long left, without having to sell a kidney to go and visit her with the family. Not forgetting the dog……