In 2005, having dropped out of my first attempt at university, I was thrown a lifeline. It's only in hindsight I fully recognise it for what it was. I got a job working for the local council providing IT support for schools. Back then local authorities still had decent budgets to fund many important services. They kept people in meaningful employment, helped them develop as individuals and all the while managed to maintain critical infrastructure at subsidised costs.
It was a job role that required a driving license and a car. Fortunately I had the former and my parents lent me £600 with which to buy my sister's boyfriend's old car. Things worked out OK: the car provided reliable transport and my sister later married the former owner! Experience from the job helped me immeasurably and I later went on to university to study Computer Science and pursue a career in Software Engineering.
The car in question was a 1995 Ford Escort. The other technicians drove varied vehicles from a Peugeot 106, to an Alfa 147 and even a Nissan 350z. There was also a works van and several employees had company cars. There is simply no way we would have been able to perform our jobs without these vehicles which carried us and our equipment up and down the county.
In hindsight it may seem surprising to some that I managed to turn up and travel for work in a 10 year old car with nearly 100,000 miles on the clock. But manage I did, without failure, for over a year of employment in that job role.
This story illustrates one of my main loves of driving - the practicality of getting you almost anywhere. Sadly under-invested in public transport and the overly-ambitious promise of fully autonomous vehicles cannot yet deliver this level of convenience. I visited many places and met people in that car I never would have any other way. It was a part of a process that helped me develop as a functioning adult in society.
It also provided the second aspect of driving that I love: a sense of fun and adventure. Even when driving for work I enjoyed seeing new places and discovering back roads that cut out a bit of traffic and allowed a sense of freedom that is hard to replicate in other ways.
So if you ask me - am I sentimental about driving and why? I would say yes absolutely and tell this or a number of other stories about how it has shaped my life. It is a natural progression for me to maintain and drive cars as a hobby even in times when we're all staying at home much more often.
I am broadly supportive of a reduction in private transport and consumption in general. We need a huge sustained reduction in emissions and it has recently been proven that fewer journeys in cars can be a big part of this. But is there still a place for cars and driving in the 21st century? I would argue most definitely, and that there is much more nuance in the benefits of driving and owning cars than meets the eye.
If you've read this far thanks for sticking with me and I hope to publish some updates on my new Alfa GTV next time. If you enjoyed this and don't want to miss the next post, you can sign up with your email below.