Connie was, for all intents and purposes, in a bind when we lived in Texas. The wide spread nature of the city reduces someone to having to drive, and having to drive is the only way to live in the city. What it meant for Connie, and myself in actuality, was that we were imprisoned without the use of a car. Walking anywhere was pretty much out of the question, especially when simply walking to the car was a chore in the 100F heat.
Obviously, this meant that when I wasn't around she very rarely could leave the apartment complex. It also meant that whenever she wanted to go anywhere, I had to go with her, chaperoning her to the shops for various odds and ends, rather maddening for both of us. The lack of this freedom to just go and do hampered many of the things that we both wanted to do, almost weekly, if not daily.
It is probably due to our upbringing and formative years that this is such a problem – I love walking to places, as does Connie, and we enjoy wandering amongst buildings, shops, streets and parks – Texas does have loads of these, but only a few we saw in temperatures that were applicable, and only a few were of the ilk that we enjoyed (Austin being one of them).
Back in the UK, it is suddenly day when once there was night. The new flat is central, on a quiet street, near shops and take aways, and cosy. The house is small, sure; and old, of course, but it's got charm and history, and importantly it gives us a freedom. We can just up and leave to go to the centre for anything we want. We are not more than 20 minutes walk away from most things we need, and 20 minutes from bus stops and train stations that will take us not just to other towns, but other countries, even further afield than my own continent. I could, if I wanted to, leave my flat in Aberdeen and walk 20 minutes, jump on a bus to London, get a train to Heathrow, and jump on a plane to Houston; upon my arrival at George Bush Intercontinental be entirely stuck at that airport. The public and personal transportation options in the UK are wildly impressive.
And the thing is I didn't need to leave to know this, but I certainly didn't appreciate them fully. I complained about the trains, the buses, even the aeroplanes, and now I have seen a world without public transport – a city built on the freedom to drive anywhere. Without the car, there is no freedom, and I don't want a machine to enable my freedom solely. I want to be able to walk 5 minutes to a shop, of a Sunday, and pick up the latest newspapers and rolls.
That's what I like, and it's the freedom I crave. And I think it's the single biggest reason for enjoying my time back home.