Getting in a car again.

Yesterday, for the first time this decade, I drove to a business meeting. I borrowed my wife’s car and drove up the M4 to Brentford to talk pensions with GSK. I had little choice else, there were no trains.

Today, because I am going to an evening event in Newport, I have no choice to use my wife’s car again, this time I will drive down to Wales and come back early tomorrow.

These will represent my first “business miles” since starting AgeWage in 2018.

When I got my first company car, I was encouraged to do 40,000 business miles a year to get myself a tax-break and get good use out of the car. I would find myself choosing car over train for all the wrong reasons.

That was only a quarter of a century ago. Now the petrol/diesel engined company car is all but dead and we are encouraged to work from home or travel by public transport. We forget how much our business lives have changed, especially when it comes to getting out and about.

I ask myself each time I leave home “is my journey really necessary”. I suspect tonight’s is not. SUEZ will win their pensions engagement award from the CIPP with or without me and it is their courage to publish AgeWage scores to their employees, not our capacity to deliver them , that’s deserving of a commendation.

But I have been invited by the CIPP and it is rude not to accept if you can. The car means I can. I pay £100 a day for the use of my partner’s car, the going rate (it is not expensed).

Getting in a car again

I’ve been driving all my adult life, getting in a car again is not difficult from an operational point of view. But I find it is difficult to remember I am not on a bicycle (my preferred mode of commute). My instincts are now self-preservation rather than preserving other’s lives and I was surprised yesterday at the way that cars compete with each other for space on multi-carriageway spaces.

Finally, I find it fascinating how a large company – GSK – has adapted to the new world. Busses line the corporate forecourt , aimed at train stations. If there had not been a train strike I would have taken one from Ealing Broadway. The visitor’s car park, even on a train strike day, was pretty empty (as were the offices). The only thing busy about the meeting was the queue of people waiting to kick us out of the room!

I spend most of my time in the City and use work spaces such as the Royal Society of Arts to conduct meetings. I expect connectivity wherever I go, having a Vodaphone 5G router in my pocket for most of the day.

The travelling experience is a work experience, my pods and headphones let me take and make calls without overly taxing those around me. I choose train times and lines where I know I can get a seat and hopefully a table.

In short, my work comes to me, I do not go to it. Having no car, the idea of travelling 250 miles today is daunting! Parking, parking tickets, petrol stations, car tax and insurance are someone else’s problem. I share a view of transport with my 25 year old son. It is something we source on google.

A conference within a conference.

Today I will be attending and chairing the SG “endgame” conference from the Celtic Manor Hotel where the CIPP is having its annual conference. I hope to use their business facilities but will find a way- even if it means sitting in my (partner’s) car.

There are dependencies, 4 or 5g for the router, the hotel’s permission to use its signal, a quiet space and a lack of distractions. There are other things to think of- how to get into black tie (with no changing room) and safety from tiredness.

These seem peculiarly post-pandemic problems. But maybe these are the problems that happen to men in their sixties anyway.

Time changes and we must change with it.

The planet is changing, we have had the hottest September ever, autumn has yet to happen and it’s October 5th. Maybe I had better stick better to my resolution not to get back in a car.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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