We learnt some things about health and happiness recently. First up the shocking news that four in ten adults fail to manage even one brisk 10 minute walk a month.
Then we discovered that the way to defy depression, disease and early death is to – yes you guessed it – exercise. Latterly, a counter-intuitive report from Oxford University revealed that city-dwellers are happier and healthier than those who live in the ‘burbs or the countryside.
Time to put two and two together.
When my wife and I started living together we each owned a car and discussions ensued about maybe getting rid of one, but no, we couldn’t possibly do that as both cars sat outside our house doing nothing very much at all. Thankfully one of the cars was nicked and we made the astonishing discovery that one car was just fine.
Ten years ago, we dumped the family car and have never looked back. We live in central London, close to two tube stations, busses, a Boris bike stand on our street and the now ubiquitous Zip cars that can be hired by tapping a card on to the car’s windscreen. We are not alone. None of our close neighbours have cars. There are empty parking slots on our street all the time which are only filled by builders’ vans on the weekend when parking is free.
Tell country folk or suburbanites that you don’t own a car and they give you a pitying look that says they didn’t realise you were that poor. During a recent talk at my daughter’s school they were encouraged to work hard so they could get ahead in the world and thus be able to buy a car and not have to travel with odd people on public transport. I wasn’t especially happy about that.
You visit the countryside and everyone seems to drive everywhere, they even drive to a location to take a walk. My wife’s family live in small town in the North East of England where there is a magnificent country park on the site of a former mine. Lottery money helped make it a wonderful spot for hiking and dog-walking, but hardly anyone uses it.
Not so us townies without a car, we walk. We walk to the shops, we cycle to the gym we take the dog to the local park – Battersea Park in our case, which is a never-ending source of joy for me and Rusty. We take exercise without even thinking about it. It’s just been pointed out to me that my new iPhone has a health app that tracks how far I walk each day. My average is about 7k a day.
If you live in London and you haven’t already done so, dump the car, walk and live a happy healthy life. The bucolic countryside may not be all it’s cracked up to be, I know, I was brought up there.