Julie Burchill Julie Burchill

The sinister truth about the war on cars

(Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

When I was a girl in the 1970s, we didn’t have a car. We always took the train from our home in Bristol to the deep west of Devon and Cornwall. But when I got together with my third husband in 1995, I discovered the joy of driving — or rather, being driven, as I certainly wasn’t going to be the (sober) adult in the room if I could help it. 

We acquired a black Mini (‘Geoff’) and most summers we’d motor all the way from Brighton to Portmeirion, in Wales. Not only was Geoff a Mini, but he even had black and white Union Jacks on the back of his mirrors; driving into the heartbreakingly beautiful Prisoner village in him felt very glamorous. 

Life rarely seems more cinematic than when music you love plays in a car, and cars have contributed more classic songs to the canon than anything except love. 

I was intoxicated with the state of being in cars for many years — nothing about our driving trips was too banal for me to exclaim over. Service stations were Aladdin’s Caves of untold treasure. Mr Raven compared me to ‘Brilliant Kid’ after the Fast Show character who got excited over everything after I became thrilled by being stuck at traffic lights, exclaiming: ‘Which is your favourite? Mine is the nice orangey one!’

Most of all I loved the beautiful, long, sexy motorways where the rushing of cars from the arterial roads made me think of the film Fantastic Voyage, all of us corpuscles streaming into the white-hot body politic of modern Britain. Life rarely seems more cinematic than when music you love plays in a car, and cars have contributed more classic songs to the canon than anything except love. As we moved from the slip-road to the motorway, I’d play Black Box Recorder’s best song (‘The English motorway system is beautiful and strange/It’s been there forever, it’s never going to change’) and I’d feel oceanic and loving towards mankind in a way which oceans themselves never make me feel.

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