Yesterday I took the car and drove over an hour to someone’s house where there was knitting and wool. Had a lovely day chatting knitter’s jargon and fondling yarn. Then I drove myself back, in the dark. Singing.
While I drove I felt the joy of women’s driving.
The freedom. The luxury of taking the car, ‘wasting’ the gasmoney on something for myself. (it’s not wasting of course). Using the roads that are made by others, for me to use, with no one having a say of where I go. The independency of it all.
It made me think of my grandmother who, only a few decades ago, packed the young children in her Volkswagen Beetle and drove off to France for holidays. All alone because she was a widow. It was the fifties, cars where still mechanical and quite noisy. The barrier between inside and outside was very thin. You really where driving a well cushioned sofa with a chrome can around it. Who had heard of seatbelts?
For hours grandma drove, chatting with the children, showing them France. There’s a light, a taste, a smell, a pace and space that is typical. France is a part of the cultural identity of Holland. We have known its influence for centuries and it has a presence in all Dutch minds. Up until 2000 anyway. In the 20th century it has been the holiday destination. We all learn the language at school and in the 20th century French literature shaped our cultural thinking. Especially in the ’20s, the ’50s and the ’70s
In the ’90s I studied Architecture and Engineering and France was in our lives. My friends loved French music and their houses and dinners had a lot of French atmosphere. The independent movies coming from France where big successes in the art film houses we visited.
It was the time when me and my boyfriend would rent a car on Friday, drive through France in one day. Spend Saturday in Italy or Spain or Switzerland and drive back in one sitting. Stopping at little bakeries to order baguettes and Far Breton.
I used to take little holidays by myself, a much needed break from all the singleminded engineers in the small town I studied in. Take the train to Paris. Stay in a small inner city motel. Visit musea. Sit in coffee bars and read a book, just like the French themselves do.
With the Urban graduating team we rented a van and drove to the middle of France to watch the sun eclipse on a hillside. Magic. It got so cold on that hill when the sun disappeared!
Yes, freedom to go from where you are to another place. Take a bit of that freedom and that other place with you, in your car. That’s what I thought about yesterday.
Then I thought of the earlier women, in the ’20s. When motorcars where just emerging. Not just for men. Women learned to drive and took the car out. Or the plane! If you ever want to read about independent women, read about aviation women. The book West with the Night by Beryl Markham, aviator, has the best feeling about no nonsense women and beautiful English. Astonishing English, to be true!
suddenly I’m tired.
I have no conclusion to bring to these writings…. I have to rest now.
PS earlier written
The driving yesterday was another ‘exercise’ to train my ability to concentrate for longer periods of time and to train my ability to recover from a busy day. Which is what today will be all about: what pace to chose, what tasks to want, how much rest to take.
The driving itself is not so interesting: you operate the machine, you have a clear idea of the traffic situation at all times, you anticipate, you co-operate. It’s driving.
I’m a good driver. With many miles behind the wheel in younger years it felt like I never stopped when I got behind the wheel for the first time again in a five years, back in January. 20 years ago I got my motorcycle licence in the busiest part of Holland and became a much better car driver for it.
I’m always amazed how driving on the highway is a form of social co-operation. How all these people get to work together, even if half of them are blind and the other half is stupid. I’m amazed at how big the marge for error is with driving. People eat, make calls, rustle in papers, doze off, get angry, are drunk, try to adjust the navigation system, blindly trust the navigation system, argue with someone in the back, make coffee, all at 130 km/hour and still you hardly ever see a crash.
It must be because we are all moving in the same direction. And because there are other drivers who compensate for the mistakes of the stupid.