Petrol prices bring out the Masai warrior in me

By Simon Round, May 16, 2008

Last weekend I pulled into the garage forecourt and filled up my car with petrol. This is usually a fairly unmemorable activity and would have been this time had I not looked at the amount the garage was charging me for my fuel. I’m not going to tell you exactly how much I paid but I can divulge that both of my children have now been enrolled in chimney-sweep school to help with the bills.

I immediately began to think of ways to keep my petrol bills down. My first thought was that maybe I should invest in a scooter. They are very handy across town and make a satisfyingly annoying noise. However, they are not much good for bringing back groceries from the supermarket or transporting one’s rather sooty children home.

Then I thought that maybe the way I drive the car might be contributing to my petrol bill. So I have now decided to cut out the wheel spins and the handbrake turns — at least in rush-hour traffic.

But I quickly decided that something more radical was required. How could I get to work in a fuel-efficient way? What, I wondered, would a Kenyan Masai warrior do in such a situation? After a while the answer came to me. He would run. They run phenomenal distances. Their children run miles to school and they jog endlessly around the high African plains, tending their cattle. And in so doing not only do they not need to fill up the family Astra very often, but they also have sleek physiques and low heart-disease rates.

Why shouldn’t I, an Ashkenazi Jew (admittedly without many cattle to tend), do the same — descending from the hills of North London, over the peaks of Muswell Hill to the grassy savannah of, er, Holborn?

Actually, I used to be a bit of a runner. Friends say that on London Marathon day I still resemble Red Rum after he retired from the Grand National — a little frisky. However, I have got out of practice and therefore need to train pretty hard if I am going to be able to traverse the eight miles home from work on foot. However, when embarking on a physical fitness programme, world fuel prices are a powerful motivating force. I will be getting fit and saving the planet while I am at it (if you ignore the fact that both my running kit and shoes are manufactured from fossil fuel derivatives).

Once I started training I also started to recall that I used to have the most fascinating thoughts while running. Immediately, I had a fascinating thought about how comfortable my armchair was and how tempting it was to recline in it and watch the telly instead of running. I also recalled that even when I was in my very finest nick — able to run 26 miles in well under four hours — I still didn’t actually look very fit, which upset me a bit.

Having ran a couple of miles and sustained a mild calf strain, I also realised with something of a jolt that I wouldn’t be saving a penny in petrol bills because I never take the car to work anyway. In fact, I wouldn’t even be saving the planet because the train I take to Moorgate every morning makes the journey whether I am on it or not.

Not only that, but I am sure all the carbon monoxide I have inhaled while running (produced at great expense by passing motorists) is actually injuring my lungs rather than making me a fit, lithe athlete in the manner of a Masai warrior.

If you ask me, they should put the price of petrol up.

    Last updated: 3:32pm, September 23 2009