Alexei Sayle: No car, so now I'm an eco-driver

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Indy Lifestyle Online

So they finally came and took the long-term test Citroë* C6 away. Like a death-row prisoner in the US filing appeal after appeal, I'd managed to extend the original loan from six months to over a year. "I'm still filming my Liverpool documentary with it," I'd tell them, or: "I'm delivering vitally needed medical supplies to the Horn of Africa: sure you can have it back if you want but Unesco will be very angry."

In the end, though, I ran out of excuses and a nice lady came and drove off back to Slough with it.

I had thought I might be able to get my lovely Nuvola Blue Alfa 166 back, but I'd lent it to a friend down in Devon and unfortunately it had blown up.

It was all my fault, really. When the C6 arrived, I had given the Alfa to my friend with 50,000 miles on the clock. Now, you definitely have to change the timing chain at 60,000 miles on the big 3.0-litre V6 engine, but an Alfa expert had told me that they can go anywhere between 50,000 and 60,000 miles and had quoted me a price of £1,500 to do the job.

Secretly, I had thought that perhaps my friends in Devon might be able to get the work done by a friendly local blacksmith with an intimate knowledge of high-performance Italian engines for 200 quid or so, and then, once the C6 loan came to an end, I could steal the car back off them.

But in fact, if anything, they were quoted a higher price for doing the change down there than up in London, so it never got done, and so the chain snapped at 53,000 miles and that was that. It would have cost more than the car was worth to rebuild the engine so it had to be scrapped. Still, I feel bereft at losing it. I loved that car.

So there was me suddenly without a motor for the first time in 20 years. "Sod it," I thought, "I live in central London, I cycle or walk to most places anyway, I'll do without."

Plus, recently I'd joined a car club that parks a couple of dual-fuel Citroë* C3s about 400 metres from my front door, so I thought I could use one of those if I needed a car.

I'd like to say this decision was taken for the good of the planet, but I'm not sure how true that would be. Recently, I've noticed a trend amongst many of my friends where they've started making all kinds of dismissive comments about the struggle to counteract global warming.

I don't think they know they're doing it, but I wonder whether it's something to do with them being what's known as "early adopters" – that is, the sort of folk who buy MP3 players or mobile phones when they're still new to the market and therefore rare and expensive. This makes them feel superior – five years ago, you couldn't stop those in my circle going on about the tiny carbon footprint of their bean sprouts but, like people who've bought a flatscreen TV or a sat-nav only to find that these days every ned has got one, they now have to denigrate what they once craved and go around leaving the lights on and importing their toilet paper from Japan one roll at a time because it turns out it was being one step ahead of fashion that was important to them, not saving the planet.

So how did my experiment with eco-motoring go? I'll tell you in the next column.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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