Adventures in Electric Lady Land...
When she finally hung up her car keys at 91, Pamela Hill decided to join the Scooter Gang, with liberating results…
A certain eldritch foresight caused me, at 91, not young enough for the granny tax, to hand in my car just before Mr Cameron dreamed up his pending tolls, probable Chinese takeovers of roads and increased mania on motorways. The car, a beloved 1997 Clio, had never let me down except for rattling off its aged exhaust not long ago in the middle of Watling Street.
However, our public services are so bad here in Hertfordshire that everybody in these parts has a car; in fact, probably two. The result is that roads are lined with them on each side and one can drive down the middle, provided you don’t meet somebody coming the other way.
This was not the reason why I decided to part with it. Mileage had to be so low the battery was not given a chance. When it failed the second day running, after two kindly men pushed it to start me off, I decided to give it to a patriotic concern, which knocks cars to bits on behalf of ambulance and fire services. I almost took it back when they only offered £60, saying it was too small. I should have thought this would make it more difficult to hit and raise the value, but no. Selling anything never pays.
So I decided to try a mobile scooter. A van arrived with several varieties and I bought the one for millionaires. It is covered with what is cheeringly described as a silver shroud. Reversing, it makes a happy tooting noise. It won’t go through the door, as there is no ramp, and waiting for planning permission was not on my agenda.
Instead, the flex goes out of the window from the charging battery, while you sit comfortably inside and watch the lights change from empty through medium to full. It takes eight hours, so you arrange your shopping trips in advance and hope it doesn’t rain. If it does, there are various extras, but the only one I have bought is a folding walking stick, as the ordinary one doesn’t fit. Whizzing along roads at 8mph or pavements at 4mph (I do not use kilometres as I detest the EU) is exciting so long as gloves are worn, otherwise your hands freeze. Parking is a dream as, even in Radlett, there is one space that no car can enter; other disabled ones are pirated. An astonishing amount of shopping can be slung here and there.
Disability is useful for taxi drivers, as they can apply for exemption from the congestion charge. Getting to London by train from here is hopeless and getting back is worse, so, for a conference, I risked £93 and took a taxi. However, my driver said he couldn’t get them to waiver the charge, which costs £10. Having a disability badge on my ‘shroud’, I tried them myself by telephone.
In the end, I got through to the presumed horse’s mouth and was told I could not be considered unless I first paid £10. I said, ‘I don’t want to pay you £10. I want to get £10 back.’
It didn’t register and I don’t yet know if the £10 is compulsory; no doubt it will be.
The chief awkwardness in using my 20 miles’- worth is pavement access, on and off. The height of kerbs is not something one notices when driving a car, but it matters greatly on a powered scooter. Cars have a habit of parking exactly in the way of a dip and looking for the next uses up precious current. The all-time low would be to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, but one has to get used to not being there in the first place. Also, a puncture would be disastrous, so avoid sharp stones and broken glass. This sounds like advice given by the nanny state, long ago.
Regarding refunds from DVLA and insurance, nothing is ever paid back that has been paid in; a fragment arrives, although it is possible to argue and obtain a further fragment. Insuring the scooter is only possible if it is locked in a garage, which doesn’t leave much scope.
As for motoring companies, they keep the subscription, but will not assist a change from cars. However, in other ways, the change is a joy – and there are no petrol bills.
Daily tip from the lady archive
“THERE is great satisfaction to be had in properly ironed garments that look as if they have just come out of the shop window.”The Lady. You Can’t Iron? 19th February, 1953