BILL SMITH WAS A CONVERT to eco-driving. His nearly new Honda Jazz had a dial on the dashboard which told him how many miles he was driving per gallon, and it proved to be an instrument of change. Put his foot down to overtake, or change into low gear to spurt up a hill, and he could see himself drop decimal point by decimal point. Stay in fifth gear and cling to a steady speed in the low fifties and he could make the twenty miles to work on a third of a gallon.
It also gave him time to appreciate the hawthorn blossom which daubed the hedgerows on both sides. It was shockingly white against the blue sky. The verges at the side of the road were a luscious grass green, ornamented where they met the hedge by occasional bluebells, pink campion, primroses, and stitchwort. Ahead of him the road was dry, smooth, and empty of traffic.
Behind him, half a dozen drivers jockeyed into position, shifted down a gear, edged out into the middle of the road for a quick risk assessment, revved and spurted, then thought better of the approaching bend, braked and ducked back in line.
Bill swept into roundabouts with minimum pause, put the clutch in at the top of Corve Rise for a free ride down to the edge of town, and extended no courtesies to people trying to join the flow on the last stretch through suburbia. He was aware that drivers raging on brake and accelerator behind him would be getting far worse mileage as a result, but he took the view that change never happened unless determined individuals led by example.
He swung into the staff car park in neutral, with just enough momentum to carry him over a speed bump and into a marked parking bay. Over six hundred people worked at the council‟s headquarters and the vast majority came by car, but there were always spare spaces this early in the morning. A woman from the personnel team pulled up next to him and smiled sweetly through the glass of two windows. People usually smiled at Bill and he usually smiled back.
He lingered behind the wheel to catch the eight o‟clock headlines on the Today programme. There had been an explosion in Afghanistan and a shooting in Leeds; another earthquake in China; looming famine in Madhya Pradesh; and scientists said new evidence suggested the arctic icecap was melting even faster than indicated by last month‟s new evidence. He switched to Radio Covinshire. The top livestock market prices and weather forecast always came first, on the hour, so he was just in time for the local news headlines which followed. Firemen had spent four hours cutting free a cocker spaniel that had got stuck in a culvert; the once-a-day bus service from Culpington to Market Arkholme was facing the axe because only two people used it; and the Leader of Covinshire Council said he was going to write to the Education Minister complaining about the level of funding for the