Apologies to all for the no-show of the blog last week; I had a few internet issues – otherwise known as living in the remote backend of nowhere in the middle of Scotland! I did once read somewhere that you can get a better signal on Mars than you can in parts of the frozen North. Somehow I don’t find that hard to believe.
Given how remote I am, it may surprise people to know that I don’t actually own a car. I got rid of my last one when I moved to Germany for a couple of years. And then Amsterdam. And then India. When I did finally come back to good old Blighty to live, I was London-based. Nobody in their right minds needs a car in a London. So I just got into the habit of hiring a car every weekend I was home. With hires numbering in the hundreds I’m on first name terms with most of the chaps at the car hire centre in Edinburgh airport so now when I pass through they just smile, wave and hand me an upgraded car key. No fuss. No bother. No queue. Works pretty well most of the time – and when it doesn’t, there’s always Twitter…..
BUT, and it is quite a big but, this is only really viable when you just need a car for a couple of days at a time, and not during high days and holidays, the Open, or the whole of August when the Festival is on. Because then you’re into ‘upping the mortgage’ territory for a couple of days hire. The rental companies call it Supply and Demand – I call it daylight robbery!
So when I recently found myself in the happy position of being able to spend a few weeks up at the barn, it left me with a bit of a problem. Hiring a car for a month? During a period that covered a couple of bank holidays? Maybe this is a good time to try a bit of an experiment. Can I survive without a car?
In theory it shouldn’t be that hard. Let’s face it – in this digital age pretty much everything is available as shop’n’drop. Even as ‘off-the-beaten-track’ as I am, most of the major supermarkets will deliver up the track – weather permitting and as long as someone is on hand to give directions from the field that SatNav stops in!
Couriers and delivery companies do hike up their prices the minute they see a Scottish postcode and I have come to the conclusion that you have to have failed geography O-level to design a website for a logistics/courier/delivery business.
- “Free delivery to mainland UK” actually means “Free delivery to anywhere South of Edinburgh”
- “Additional charges for delivery to Highlands & Islands” actually means “Additional charges for delivery to anywhere North of Edinburgh”
But as long as you’re willing to pay over the odds to get your goods, most delivery companies will make it up there eventually.
So as long as I can get to the barn, why would I need a car?
Well the first challenge is actually getting there. I am 5 miles from the nearest pint of milk, or the nearest pint of beer, or the nearest bus stop. So getting home from the airport by public transport is something of a expedition. An hour or so on a train to Perth. Another hour or so on a bus to Alyth. And then a very long walk over a few hills. Fortunately it was a (rare) sunny day….
Walking isn’t one of my preferred hobbies, so having made it over the glen I had no plans to go anywhere. Which is all well and good until you discover you urgently need to post a letter (nearest postbox 2 miles), or you’re running short of milk (nearest shop 5 miles). Fortunately we have a great sense of community up here. The postman offered to post my letter 🙂 And my neighbours, on discovering my car-free status, kept offering to take me to the shops.
So was the experiment successful? Is car-free life possible? Well sort of – with some tolerant neighbours and a willingness to walk. But I’m a fair-weather girl; I’m not sure I’d fancy the hike down to civilisation in the rain/wind/snow/cold that is the norm up here – even with these views as you walk.
Maybe it’s time to buy a car…..