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Byline: tryst Williams

WOULD you sell a used car to this man? I'm aware the formulation, famously applied to Richard "Tricky Dicky" Nixon, should be about whether you'd buy a used car from a dodgy-looking shyster.

But there must be something particularly shifty-looking about me given that I can't even land myself my preferred choice of used car at the moment.

This unwelcome transformation into an Arfur Daley in reverse is the result of the arrival of offspring number three.

In harness with the other big life changes this has effected over the past two months - sleepless nights, sick-covered suits, and the endless wailing (cue corny joke about how I should really temper my post-Grand Slam celebrations) - there are also the big money-draining financial considerations like a bigger car.

In such environmentally-conscious times it pains me to think that the trusty diesel Ford Fiesta can no longer cope now that space for two adults and three bulky child-seats are needed. The odd-looking six-seater Fiat Multipla now seems like the ideal solution.

But a saleable version of the car with the look of an inanely-grinning simpleton dolphin is more elusive than a Royal butler at an inquest. Of course, we've considered the holier-than-thou green option of not even running a car.

A few years ago, the over-riding excuse would have been the need for transport to get to the nearest soulless out-of-town retail park to get to and from the nearest supermarket.

But with the advent of the online supermarket shop, that excuse has gone. Who'd have thought we'd ever see a 360 deg return to the days of ordering your grocery deliveries from the friendly village "Tec" or "Cop" (that's Tesco or Co-op to those not in the know)?

So instead, there's only one key mitigation against going car-free in today's Wales. The utter, total, complete uselessness of the nation's public transport.

Even on a basic level, in a world of instant internet financial transactions and microchipped cards that you can use in shops with your secret code, it's simply laughable that the capital's buses work on the premise of "having the correct change".

Worse are the crowded, overpriced, tawdry carriages that pass for trains in these parts.

The stunning inconvenience of public transport is made plain by the regular misery of being among the four carriages worth of people being herded onto two (regularly late) carriages, not to mention prices and inflation-busting price rises that would cause our continental cousins to splutter into their chablis.

Oh, and did I mention the breathtaking lack of Sunday trains available for that increasing band of folk who have to work on this unholiest of days, and the sheer arrogance of programming disruptive rail work to coincide with the peak time for family holidays?

It's a problem that will be acute today as the big Easter get-away continues.

For all the high-falutin talk of the need for a greener future, it's an issue on which the train operators, local government, Westminster and Cardiff Bay can all feel heartily ashamed of. Whether this changes in the coming years, driven by sheer necessity, only time will tell.

In the meantime, I'll stick with the hardly environmentally-friendly practice of running a family car.

As long as someone will sell a used car to this man, that is.

"It's laughable that the capital's buses work on the premise of "having the correct change"
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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