THE older I get, the less I enjoy driving. It doesn’t help that my car is nearly 10 years old and, while generally in good nick, it’s only a matter of time before it starts to to fall apart with age. A bit like its owner.

I’m sure if you have a nice comfortable car, with all the bells and whistles, driving is a joy. But I’ve never had a decent car, and I probably never will. So I’m kind of looking forward to a time (in the not-too-distant future) when I can travel on buses for free, and wave goodbye to over-priced car insurance, MOTs and slow punctures.

I started catching the bus when I was 13 - two buses to school and two home - and when I started working as a junior reporter I couldn’t afford a car so I went everywhere on the bus. I spent many a rainy evening, after covering a town council meeting or reviewing an am dram show, waiting for the 268.

I still occasionally leave the car at home and catch the bus. Like all public transport in this country, it’s criminally expensive, but it gives me a bit of time to myself - and I see so much more out of a bus window than I do from the steering wheel.

Even better than a bus (and more reliable than a train) is a coach. Coach travel is so great Divine Comedy wrote a song about it. I love coaches so much I often go on holiday on them. I’ve been on coach trips to Tuscany, the Italian Lakes, the Costa Brava, and next on my list is the French Riviera.

Coach packages often include the cost of transport, hotel, meals and day trips, offering an affordable way to see the world. Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice and Barcelona are some of the European cities I’ve visited by Shearings coach, and earlier this year, as part of a trip to Lake Como, I took a spectacular railway journey to St Moritz - with the coach waiting at the top to take us down the hairpin bends.

Coach travel isn’t for the fainthearted. I once did a 36-hour coach journey to Italy with no overnight stop - “I’m never doing that again,” said one burly bloke, who hadn’t managed to get any sleep in his reclining seat since setting off from Dover.

And at some point you will find yourself brushing your teeth in a service station somewhere in the middle of France at 4am, wearing socks and flip-flops because your feet have swelled up, trying to pull a comb through hair that hasn’t seen a shower for two days.

But if, like me, you enjoy sitting back with a good book, leaving the long-distance driving to the professionals, and enjoying the view through a succession of countries, it’s a wonderful way to travel. There are breaks every couple of hours, the drivers are fun, they work in pairs, serve drinks and show films. There are often great characters on a coach too. You soon bond with folk on a continental comfort break.

I think I like a coach holiday because it’s like being on a school trip. You get told where to sit, when to get off and when to return to the bus. You feel looked after.

And you can go anywhere on a coach, with flexibility, comfort, even luxury - some coaches have ‘lounges’ with armchair-style seating - and none of the cattle herd queuing of airports.

Coach trips have given me cherished moments - following the Von Trapps’ footsteps in the Austrian Alps with a bus-load of Sound of Music devotees and belting out Dancing Queen on a Mamma Mia Greek island trail among them.

Particularly memorable was a coach trip to WW1 battlefield sites in France and Belgium, with Bradford First World War Group. A fascinating, moving experience.

Coaches aren’t cool, but who cares? When you’ve sung along to Do-Re-Mi while circling a roundabout in Salzburg, you don’t really care about cool.

* ISN'T it ridiculous for anyone over the age of 10 to have an Advent calendar?

What was once a simple festive tradition has become something silly. Not content with getting a load of presents on Christmas Day, grown adults now expect a treat every day of December. And not any old treat. There are Advent calendars containing gin, cheese, marshmallows, beauty products, posh teabags, and none of them cheap. A Tiffany one costs over £1,000!

Even children's Advent calendars contain chocolates or sweets. They didn't used to. We had the same homemade one every year, with the Nativity scene unfolding behind paper windows. December 25 was a picture of Baby Jesus. Not a choccie in sight.

Do greedy consumers even know what Advent is?

* A FEW weeks ago I wrote that I was holding out hope for festive film Last Christmas, despite the critics roasting it like an overdone turkey.

Now I've seen it - and I really enjoyed it! It's schmaltzy and ridiculous, and I saw the clangingly obvious twist coming in about the first 20 minutes. But it's rather sweet; it looks lovely, made me chuckle, brought a tear to my eye, and left me feeling Christmassy.

I'd expected to hate it, and I kind of get why the critics do. But I felt myself melting as the opening credits rolled. Now I know how Scrooge felt on Christmas morning.