Friday 23 August 2019

Bairbre Power: I’ve started on the road to liberation after ditching most of my prejudices... and my car

Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

One of the biggest midlife surprises I'm having to come to terms with is how strongly held views and beliefs are now being thrown to the wind. I may have gained a waist but I'm shedding a lot of prejudices that I've harboured for years. It's one thing admitting you were wrong, but wrong for decades? That's a lot of mental recalibrating but I'm on the road to liberation thanks to plenty of thoughtful navel gazing.

Take wine for example. I was always an ABC gal, a card carrying member of the Anything But Chardonnay club after sipping way too buttery Californian wines in Sonoma in the 1980s. It took a persuasive sommelier on a recent river cruise to tempt me. To be honest, I raised the glass to my lips more out of politeness and duly discovered I was completely wrong to blackball whites over reds.

Earlier this year, I swallowed a lifetime of prejudices and flew Ryanair. I always hated the tensions associated with the two-tiered queues, the unruly scramble for seats, the rows over suitcase sizes. And what happened when I changed a habit of two decades, they went back to abandoning travellers abroad with no notice, so needless to say, I've reverted to my ABR stance - Anyone But Ryanair.

At home, I've abandoned a lifetime's habit of being a midweek couch potato to watch Corrie and EastEnders. Now I couldn't care less if I didn't see the box from one end of the week to the next except, of course, for Strictly at the weekends.

After years of wanting instant gratification and the latest books, I'm back into the fold of the Dublin library system and loving it. When it comes to shopping, I'm standing firm on my 'no' to online retail simply because I don't have the figure for it. At 5ft 5in tall, I've a short waist which means most off-the-peg outfits don't fit me unless they are hoiked up at the shoulders and then everything falls into the right place. I don't want to be running to the Parcel Motel only to send it back the next day so I'm not recanting reservations about online retail.

Perhaps the biggest change in my life in the last few months has been to do with cars. I no longer have one and that, coming from a closet petrol head, is quite a seismic change. No one is more surprised about this no car status than me.

Last year I interviewed a CEO about retail and when I enquired about how long he spent commuting each day, I was totally shocked when he fessed up to not owning a car.

"You don't have a car," I repeated back to him in total disbelief and he explained how he walked 30 minutes to and from work, shopped local for fresh produce and got bulkier items delivered by the supermarket. For trips to the garden centre, he picked up a Go car by the hour and for longer trips, he could rent a car.

I came away muttering to myself about how you absolutely need a car but, as I've now discovered, you don't. My carless status is not because I've been put off the road, it had to do with the maths and when I realised I hadn't used mine in six weeks, it triggered a lifestyle change. I'm off the school run, there's no more late night requests looking for a spin home and, for the moment, I'm managing quite nicely using public transport. My Leap card is busier than my bank card and I'm liking the upturn in my finances. No car insurance, tax, parking fines, maintenance bills, toll charges or petrol costs.

Not having a car is quite a seismic shift for me because I've romanced about cars for decades. As a teenager in Brittany, I desperately wanted to bring back that French motoring icon, the Citroën 2CV 'deux chevaux' because they looked so much nicer than the Citroën Dyane sold here.

My affections moved on to another classic, the Morris Minor Traveller, but the mechanic sage in my life cautioned how it was one thing to have a car with an old engine but quite another matter to own a car with woodworm.

In the end, my first car was a Fiat 850 bought from show band legend Joe Mac of the Dixies who threw in two 99 ice creams at his cafe in Cork to seal the deal.

I've driven a Fiat Bambino which started by pulling on a lever, but my motoring exploits moved up quite a notch when I drove for Formula One legend Jackie Stewart at Oulton Park and much to the shock of Scandinavian motoring press who sniggered when I hit one, maybe two, of the cones in a chicane, I'm delighted to say I wiped the smug smiles off their face when I came in with one of the fastest times on the straight.

Nowadays I can only reminisce about motoring times as I wait for the bus, Dart and Luas. There was a time when the only exotic bus route in Dublin was the 75 which went cross-county and ended up in Dun Laoghaire. Nowadays there are loads and my latest guilty secret is the 140 which goes from Rathmines to the front door of IKEA in Ballymum. After last year's interest in the cosy concept of hygge, I've moved on and now I'm all about 'lagom', the Swedish concept of "not too much, not too little", all nicely wrapped in a bow on the back seat of the number 140 bus.

Irish Independent

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