In 1993, when I returned home to the UK after living in the USA for twenty eight years – I decided to stop driving for good.
I don’t like fragmentation in my life. I find it interferes with my thinking process and consequently my creativity. It’s all that stopping and starting…..
Those following my blog will note that I have travelled extensively, but it was always to a destination where I could remove myself from the madding crowd. A place where a car was not necessary to function.
Overlooking the Usk Valley in Wales where the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains meet. watercolour/gouache
In 1993 I moved to Crickhowell in Wales – a small market town in the Usk Valley – a place where I could walk to the butcher, baker and candle stick maker as well as pubs and coffee shops. The magnificent surrounding countryside along with the local people gave me all the inspiration I could ever wish for. As soon as I was introduced to the place by my cousin I knew that it would work for me. It was a place where I would not need a car.
The high street in Crickhowell –
Along with many other shortages currently in the UK there is a petrol shortage. I wont go into the politics and reasons behind this, but rather what it brings to the forefront.
As people fight on the forecourts of petrol stations and others fill any container they can find…it is clear that for most people the concept of not driving isn’t even part of the equation. It has also pointed out how much better off people are who have electric cars.
Back to sanity.
A sketch of the Crickhowell Bridge and behind it St Edmund’s Church which sits in the heart of the town. watercolour and Tombow Pen.
I lived and worked in Crickhowell for twelve years. When I needed a car to get to the train station at Abergavenny I simply called a taxi. Extremely convenient and far less expensive than keeping a car on the roads.
One of the many watercolour portraits I painted of the local people. After living with my cousin and family for six months, I rented my first small flat on the High Street from Anne Trott. Over the years I painted her several times including a large oil on canvas.
Anne Trott – Crickhowell
What I have learned over the years is that society doesn’t make it easy for people to live without a car. Public transportation in some areas is superb….but in many areas it is not good. As an environmentalist I have been banging on about this for years. To get people out of their cars we need to change our whole way of living.
My second home in Crickhowell – the cottage at number 11 Mill Street. A very special place. I was able to walk from the cottage to all the shops and everything else. All my needs were met and I had no car.
There have been times, including this past weekend when I have been driven by a friend. I fully appreciate this, but it is always a reminder to me that cars are not my favourite form of getting around. I prefer public transportation and my walking legs……
Walking in the beautiful Usk Valley – watercolour/gouache
The effect on my body and mind of living without a car in a place where all my needs could be met was extraordinary. I was at peace….and very fit. The priorities of life were made clear.
Consequently, my days were not fragmented…but rather there was a gentle rhythm to them.
A photograph from this past weekend from one of my favourite painting places. Curlews is owned by good friends, and for me it is always a good place to get away from the madding crowd and to be reminded of just how beautiful our world is.
Curlews is just outside of Crickhowell way up high overlooking the Usk Valley – looking up towards Brecon.
On the way up to Curlews we passed John’s house whose portrait I painted a few weeks ago. John Addis is very well known in Crickhowell and his family go back a long way. He has produced some beautiful books with old photographs of the area…
and then a little further up we passed Gwynn’s house. I painted this watercolour sketch about 20 years ago.
I have painted/sketched so many of the people of Crickhowell….As I said earlier, along with the magnificent landscape and people there is a constant source of inspiration. All without a car………
Like the rest of the world, even a place like Crickhowell and the Brecon Beacons is changing. There is a lot more traffic about than when I first went there in 1993. Thank goodness it is part of the Brecon Beacon National Park which does give some protection.
And hopefully we are all recognising that we do need to change our ways. That there is only so much space…and with mental illness growing in leaps and bounds we need to look at a more rhythmic and gentle life….in my opinion one away from cars.
I fully appreciate that for many living without a car is nigh impossible….but we can at least begin to look at different ways of living and being.
I no longer live in Crickhowell but I do live in a place where again I can walk to the butcher baker and candlestick maker……I have no car.:)
Enjoy a lovely weekend.