Susie Rushton: My carefree car-free life has gone to L

Urban Notebook: I can't go anywhere without gauging the distance via a fat spaghetti strand of brown, indigo or pink
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The Independent Online

Motoring along the quiet residential streets close to Fulham FC early on Sunday morning, I suddenly felt rather ludicrous. Firstly, it was no day for driving. It had snowed overnight, and the road was treacherous with sleet. It was cold enough to keep my puffa jacket on, even inside the car.

Secondly, driving anywhere in London is basically pointless. The brave may prefer bikes, but my internal sat nav is hardwired to the Tube map. I can't go anywhere in the city without first gauging the distance via a fat spaghetti strand of brown, indigo or pink Underground line in my imagination.

Sometimes I regret the quantity of mental hard drive allocated to the calculation and constant update of travel equations: If Green Park is closed due to suicide attempt, hmm, then District line slower but only by two minutes, so long as we're not held at that tricky red light in the tunnel outside South Ken ... There's probably an iPhone application in it, Mr Jobs, if you feel like getting in touch.

What made the motoring expedition seem especially silly was the conversation. "P, O, S, M?" the man in the passenger seat asked me as I turned right towards the Thames. We were crawling along at 4mph, the engine softly juddering, possibly because I'd left it in third gear. I thought about the letter P ... what did it stand for? Preparation, is it? "Position, Observation, Speed, Manoeuvre."

You see, eight years after I sat in a car park in Croydon, test failure slip in hand, silently abandoning all plans to get a driving licence, I am now back behind the wheel. Of course, driving is a useful skill to acquire. But at 32, the learner does feel a touch foolish. Not for being 15 years late, or for spending £30 an hour on lessons when I'd rather be saving. Nor for memorising acronyms that surely do nothing to promote actual understanding.

It's just that, by now, I've already learned how to live life without a car. And it's not at all bad. The era of rising congestion charges, scarcer oil and tighter money can't be the best moment to put pedal to the metal. But timing, as my driving instructor can confirm, and indeed frequently does, isn't my strong suit.

On the other hand, I see that the price of a brand-new Jag is falling. "Next week," he said at the end of the lesson, "we'll work on steering." An XK60 should be pretty cheap by the time I'm qualified.

Making amyl of it

Darling, would you be able to pick up a bottle on the way home? Oh, I don't mind what sort. Hang on, what about Rush, that cheeky little amyl nitrite number Gordon Ramsay recommends? What's that? You thought only gay men and Seventies throwbacks used that? No, really, it's the perfect pairing for thoroughly-cooked goose. Buy two!

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