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London Transport

The blog has been pretty quiet of late as I’ve been moving out of Staffordshire and settling into London. It’s a big change from pretty, quiet Lichfield, but considering I’ve lived in cities most of my life, especially the bustle of Tokyo for so many years I feel a lot more comfortable in the big city. Location is very important for me, not only for artistic inspiration (see previous posts) but also for the convenience of living.

My biggest handicap in Lichfield was not being able to drive. Motoring has always been anathema to me, I’ve never even tried to learn, I was 40 before I ever sat behind the wheel of a car with the engine switched on. To this day my only driving experience is a single 25 yard crawl in a hired car. Ditto motorbikes and scooters, never has my posterior straddled any kind of engine.

I often wonder why I was never bitten by the motoring bug, I had virtually no interest in cars as a teenager beyond the aesthetic appeal of old classic cars. This was partly due to witnessing massive arguments about cars between the obsessed petrolheads in my family. I decided early on that entire weekends spent under a bonnet getting covered in oil or macho posing behind a wheel of the “right” car were not for me. While every member of my family passed their test and zoomed off down the highway, I remained a confirmed city-bound pedestrian.

Had I remained in the UK perhaps my resolve would have eventually been undermined, but 20 years in Tokyo as a disciple of the fabulously efficient public transport system only strengthened my conviction. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, sitting on trains was a great opportunity to observe, sketch and doodle. Happily, my late (2nd) wife didn’t drive either, nor any member of her family.

I say I’ve never driven, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never owned a car. Sad to admit, for a time in Japan I bought a series of cars, owned by me, but driven exclusively by my first wife. First we had a Citroen 2CV, eco-friendly, it was black all over, from the very last series before production ceased. It was slow, manual, and very draughty in the winter. I liked it, ex-wife hated it. Before long it was swapped for an Audi. That in turn gave way to a Mercedes hatchback. My soirée with motor vehicles ended when we split. I don’t think I ever sat in the driving seat of any of these cars!

But back to now, and here I am in London after a 22 year absence. In the city at least, whatever I can’t get hold of locally is only a bus or tube ride away (though Boris has just made this a very expensive option).

This afternoon I tried cycling to Kilburn. Blimey! I was out of puff before I was half way down the road, by the time I reached the High Road my legs were quivering lumps of jelly. Lack of transport in Lichfield kept me virtually house bound for a year. Hopefully time in London will get me back in shape…..

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