Yesterday afternoon I paid £1.14 a litre to fill the petrol tank of my car. On a 55-litre fuel tank that takes me well past the sixty pound mark for a fill.
I'm not complaining about this because for now I know that we can afford it, but I also know that it's a heavier problem for some.
I've been operating on the assumption that at least part of the reason for the hefty duty on fuel in the UK was an effort to discourage car use for environmental reasons. I may be wrong — the duty has been substantial for longer than the environment has really been on the radar, I think.
When we moved back to Northern Ireland (almost two years ago, now) we took what was for us a difficult decision. We bought a second car. This was a result of the nature of the work we both do: I move around a lot during the day, and not having to rely on public transport makes for less time spent traveling, plus I often am out and about in the evenings; my wife works on calls 'from home' and needs quick transport to the hospital to be immediately available; it's impossible to co-ordinate these two factors.
That was our thinking, and most of the time I manage to convince myself that it's not just an excuse. On occasion, though, I wonder if we've been seduced by a little taste of decadence, even if the second car only leaves the drive when we really need it to.
Sometime in the next few months, we'll need to fill the oil tank for our central heating, too. That one I am a little concerned about. When it comes to it, though, we'll rein in for a while and we'll be able to pay the bill I fully expect to be in the region of £5-600. Again, we're lucky (which is to say, privileged) — we'll be able to do that. Others won't.
What to do?
This is where I start to get a little uncomfortable, because ultimately I think it's a cultural thing that is as much to do with me as anyone else, consuming everything.
I have convinced myself that we need two cars in our family, however uncomfortable I claim to be with that arrangement. We, a couple with no children yet, need a whole car each?
Maybe, for now, it's true that we do. I still hope, though, that I'll never stop asking myself that every time I look out at our drive and see them sitting there. When I stop, then I'll need to worry.
I suppose that's a solid principle: don't get comfortable.