Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

Car for sale: one frazzled lady owner...
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The Independent Online

I gnash my teeth and say life without a car will be a terrible sacrifice but worth it for the planet, but I would have sold it anyway. I'm amazed at the speed I've climbed up (or down) the green evolutionary ladder. No more flying, driving, no more Kenyan peas from Marks and Sparks - where's it going to end? Soon I'll be writing this column on a solar-powered laptop in a dimly lit cave living on home-grown mushrooms. The trouble is, even caves won't be safe if the Government follows Norway's lead and pumps all our excess carbon into them.

But disastrously, no one will buy my car. I finally slogged over to Arnie's Motors in Streatham prepared to be fleeced. My Kensington and Chelsea permit was about to run out so I was desperate to do a deal there and then.

Getting a resident's permit sounds straightforward. I own my flat and it's agreed I may keep a car in its vicinity, yet it involves a bewildering battery of paperwork. MOTs, driving licences, insurance docs, household deeds, firearms certificates, passport - the list goes on and on. That's the easy bit. I also have to visit the British library, the police and a JP.

Then I must take all this clobber to Chelsea Permits, a dimly lit office manned exclusively by the sullen womenfolk of traffic wardens, but lacking their compassion and joie de vivre. For 15 years I have made my annual pilgrimage to this house of torture, joining the endless queue of sweating residents desperately seeking sanction for their SUVs.

Great satisfaction is gained from sending braying residents away because their firearms certificate, or some obscure piece of documentation, is not up to date. I've seen fights break out, wealthy Saudi Arabians attempt bribery with fistfuls of £50 notes, and alpha mums on their knees sobbing. But it cuts no ice. So you can understand why I left Arnie's Motors weak with misery. "I'll pay you to take it away!" I sobbed. "Just don't send me back to Chelsea Permits!"

During a stress-busting massage the masseuse suggested eBay. But the thought of scanning a photo, e-mailing it to eBay, and then accompanying hordes of potential murderers for a test drive was too much. I decided to call my father. "Bring the car down," he reassured, "and I'll get someone to sell it for you." Eureka!

My father runs a large factory that is a bit like the court of Henry VIII. There is someone to do everything. There is probably a man whose job it is solely to wind up clocks. Honest John, it seems, will be instructed to sell my motor.

Note to all fathers: however old your daughter is, she will be calling you with ghastly problems until the day one of you dies.

Without a car, I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. My man with the capitalistic converter insists that taking a taxi from here to the moon is still cheaper than running a car in London. But Donnachah, my eco coach, insists taxis are not green. It's a conundrum.

As Kermit the frog used to lament: "It's not easy being green." How right he was!

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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