It's not easy, this being green lark. We do our bit: well, my beautiful partner has pointed out the error of my ways and I've got the message. We recycle; we have a compost bin and a wormery. We have organic fruit and veg boxes delivered so we eat what's in season. I've even taken to cycling in a big way. We holidayed in England this year, for pity's sake!
There's just one, gargantuan, fly in the ointment – driving. I love driving. I've driven since I was a child, turning the steering wheel along the lanes of Sussex while an adult worked the pedals. I passed my test, first time, aged 17 and became teetotal for the next 10 years so I'd never be tempted to risk my licence. I've driven just about everything with wheels and an engine: from Formula Ford racers to quad bikes and rally cars, tractors and trucks to bubble cars.
It's a sickness. I would drive a five-minute walk to the corner shop. Given a choice, I would drive from my bed to the bathroom in the morning. You can pluck my car keys from my cold, dead hand!
So the idea of flogging off one of our cars was not easy to accept. We have three kids under 12 to ferry about, I told myself; of course we need two cars! The bitter truth is that, most of the time, our needs are more than met by our perfectly capable, eco-friendly Fiesta diesel hatchback. It has enough space and oomph, and emission levels that would shame a Smart.
But what about my beloved van? It's a VW Transporter, with five seats – technically it is a diesel car – and masses of space for bikes, camping gear, moving house (which we seem to do more than strictly necessary), CD changer, killer stereo, etc etc. I like my van. I like the commanding driving position, the space, the huge load capacity and the 500 miles it goes on one tank of diesel. But we don't, actually, need it...
My beautiful partner walks to work three days a week, and I cycle. The car and the van sit outside the house, gathering depreciation and dust. Unfortunately, once or twice a week, we both need vehicles for work and to ferry the kids around in.
Which is where City Car Club comes in. Though in principle it sounded like a good, and green, idea, I had my doubts about the notion of timeshare cars dotted around London.
City Car Club sent me all the kit in the post. It was straightforward: you get membership ID, a PIN number and something that looks like a Transport for London Oyster card.
Then you check on the website for the nearest cars. It takes a bit of fiddling about with maps and postcodes, but booking one is pretty straightforward.
Go to the car, swipe your "Oyster card" on the reader in the windscreen, fish the keys out of the ashtray, and then punch the PIN into the control panel in the glovebox – and you're off. Genius!
The Nissan Micra we used first time was fine. Three squealing pre-teens in the back found it perfectly tolerable after their rehearsal for the end-of-term show. After shuttling them about thither and yon and a bit of shopping, we returned the Micra to its parking bay a short walk from our house after three hours' use, for a total cost of less than £15. We're converts to the scheme now and, if travelling by train, will book a car to pick up when we get there. City Car Club operates in London, Brighton, Bath, Bristol, Edinburgh, Norwich (where it is introducing biodiesel cars), Poole, Portsmouth and Reading.
Inside the congestion zone in London, it is introducing hybrid Honda Civics and it has some slightly larger Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astras. If I have a criticism of the scheme at all, it's that there are not enough of these dotted about the place. With the three horse children of the apocalypse and all their hardware to ferry, things can get a bit tight in a Micra.
Still, the joining fee is a one-off £75, which we've paid for a family lunch before now. For £25 more my beautiful partner could also drive, though she finds driving a chore and a bore so we didn't bother. Insurance is fully comprehensive, with a £500 excess, though you can opt for £100 and pay a higher rate.
The cars always have at least a quarter of a tank in them. There's a fuel card on board for topping up, if needed, and it's included in the rate.
The whole thing is unarguable. For a family such as ours the scheme is damn near perfect, and cheap. Road tax alone for the van is £200 a year. Then there's the thick end of a grand for insurance, even with full no claims. A recent MoT gave a clean bill of health apart from a need for four, count them, four brand new tyres: the previous ones had masses of tread left but had started to perish through lack of use. Even a petrolhead as thick-skinned as me has to start to get the message.
So, with a heavy heart: "For sale, one VW Transporter Kombi, diesel, five seater, Low mileage, great stereo and Four New Tyres. Common sense forces sale."