Sunday, November 27, 2005

#7: Vegetables

I bought a carrot this morning from a supermarket. It cost 7p. I thought:

Bloody hell. That’s cheap.

You see, usually, because I’m convenience minded (read: lazy) if I’m doing anything with vegetables I’m stir-frying them. And that means buying one of those bags of pre-cut veg with exotic stuff like beansprouts and water chestnut in. Not that I’m a particularly big fan – those two really only act as a kind of filler – just that it’s easy, and it looks appealing.

But what it really is is a luxury. More than I really need, prepared and provided for me in an easier way than is strictly necessary. So far as Real Life goes, all I really need is a carrot, some mushrooms (26p), a pepper (89p for three), maybe an onion, and so on... Instead of ending up with a bag of bits that’s good for a couple of meals, you can get a whole stock of vegetables that’s probably going to be good for days. And without it costing you much more – per meal it’ll work out loads less.

But I know when I come to chop up that carrot, I’m going to regret it. All the fiddling about with cutting boards and sharpened metal implements, risking a trip to casualty for the sake of some vitamin k and whatever other nutritional value. I’m a poor student, right, so I should be relishing this economising challenge – but hell no, I’m concerned for the reduction in studying time it’s going to cause me (you know how long the queues are at a&e these days, don’t you?). I’m avoiding it, but it’s in there somewhere – my manual carrot-carving abstinence is a lifestyle choice, driven by a lack of necessity. I can get something better, so I shall – and I’m glad that I can.

I’m the same way with cars. Well, sort of. Recently, Autocar ran an article about the potential future of car taxation. They took these plans to conclude that the government was suggesting the Vauxhall Zafira was all the car you’d ever need. Oh great, a box with wheels on and some clever packaging. The problem for the government in this is similar to my problem with the vegetables – is it all the car you’ll ever want? It’s all very well looking for some kind of platonic ideal, but given the choice and the viability how many people are actually going to pick it?

How much car is enough? What do you really need in a motor vehicle, if you’re honest about it? I have been considering for several months now the possibility of getting a smaller car. I mean, there’s all this new cool stuff knocking about – the Toyota Aygo, for example – cool older stuff – the Smart Roadster – and cool even older stuff – the Ford Ka. Being a poor student, obviously it’d be something like the Ka I’d be looking for. Compact, interesting looking, wheel at each corner, reputably chuckable as a tennis ball – old enough to be affordable. Or so you’d have thought.

And…inevitably, sadly, this is where the argument collapses. I would actually really like to run one of these things, but the fact is I’ve got a perfectly serviceable BMW 520i which I bought for £800. I’ve had it nearly two years and it hasn’t gone wrong. It looks nice. It’s comfortable. It goes pretty well for something with 165,000miles on the clock. Ok, so sometimes the electronics goes a little nuts, but that I can live with. Oh, and then there’s the fuel economy. But the only time it’s ever failed to start is when I’ve left the lights on. Practically speaking, the boot’s huge. And the noise it makes is lovely.

Any Ford Ka I could get for that amount of money is going to be ruined. I mean seriously. And the engine is from the 1960s…alright so that’s pretty well known, but you get my point. I’m not exactly going to be outrunning anyone from the lights. The insurance isn’t even much cheaper (I’ve checked). The only place I’d be saving is at the petrol station, and that might not be much of a consolation if I was driving it like I stole it all the time – which I’d probably have to [err…]. Talking of which, I know how long it took the RAC to break into mine when the battery did go flat – and which one I’d rather experience an accident in. So, it’d be harder work, less rewarding, and lower my odds in a head-on with a bus.

Even taking into account the running costs – including the difference in tax – I still can’t see a serious reason for downsizing, especially when the smaller car is likely to cost me more in the first place. I’d like to be all utilitarian and such, but it just doesn’t make any sense. And like the vegetables, I want my cars with filling: it’d take some small car to fill the hole a six-cylinder five series leaves behind.


Autocar: "Taxing times for British drivers"


Yes, that is a carrot plush toy. The image is taken from the Hanung Toys (India) Limited website. Hopefully they won't sue as I'm giving them a free plug.

Like an idiot, I cut up and ate the carrot I bought earlier today before photographing it...despite reminding myself constantly that it had to be done. Duh.


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