Who’s Going To Drive You Home?

I’m so glad I don’t love cars. It must be a blight, a curse on one’s life to feel the pressure of wanting, of needing to drive something sleek and fast and fancy. If – Janis Joplin style – the Lord were to buy me a Mercedes Benz, I would thank him and accept it, but having to maintain said M-B in all its prestigious glory would be the bane of my life, I know it. I prefer a car that is happy to age gracefully, whose job is not to impress, not to pay attention to my dreams, but simply to drive me home. That nearly didn’t happen when was motoring up the A68 from Melrose back to Edinburgh on Saturday. I was tuned into the pre-match Raducanu hype, in a happy world of my own, when – whoosh! – the trim between the windscreen and the driver’s door flew up, flapped for one second, then blew off and sailed into the air behind me like a nasty thought. Not a nice feeling when you are sitting on sixty. By the time I turned and drove back for it, it had become the equivalent of a digestive biscuit bashed by a rolling pin. I drove on, and quickly the foam fitting under the trim became undone, leaving me with a new, purposeless pennant fluttering from the car. About a mile on, I found a lovely couple in a campervan who had pulled into a layby to share a flask of tea by the River Tweed. Resourceful (which I imagine most campervanners to be), they produced half a dozen Elastoplasts with which to secure it; seemed oddly fitting for my injured, melancholic little Mini. The sticking plasters held almost as far as Pathhead, where I stopped for a roll of Sellotape in the Post Office, strapped it up further, and we chugged on home. Since then, it has been re-patched with duct tape – although, had I been able to encase it in Plaster of Paris, I think I would. I’m sending it to the garage for plastic surgery this weekend – that’s what the trim is made from – took a few days to order in, but I could see, even in the course of just one week, that I had become used to the bandage and was tempted to just let it be. (Sure isn’t it grand?) But I will succumb to social norms (and to the requirements of the MOT and road worthiness) and have it repaired in case, on the next journey, for the want of one trim the whole vehicle might fall apart. (‘For the want of a nail the kingdom was lost’, remember that one?)

The incident has set me thinking about old jalopies, in particular about all the cars from my childhood, none of them came to us new. Some were held together by duct tape, one had a rusty base (sometimes patched with a piece of plywood) through which you could see the road, most of them had dings and bashes, and at least one started only after a solemn recitation of five Hail Marys. These are a selection of those I remember. How about you?

Morris Minor – wood panelled estate, would be a total hipster car now, but back then it was just really big pram with a motor.

Ford Anglia – rusted floor, no seat belts, kids in boot.

Red Cortina – either I was very small, or it was enormous, maybe both.

Silver Cortina – Dad used to sing David Soul’s ‘Come on Silver Lady’ to it (hit of the day), and so we called it Silver Lady.

Red Polo – small, nameless, we didn’t all fit into it, bought when petrol prices soared in 1979.

Blue Nova – embarrassing, looked like a car made from Lego… ok then, Duplo.

Red Sierra – everyone thought it was an unmarked police car as it had no hub caps. I clipped an oncoming car on the back road to Coleraine one day and lost a wing mirror, Dad was mad.

Silver Astra – terrible acceleration, it couldn’t overtake on a hill.

The Green E Series – ‘Oh Lord Won’t You Buy Me’, Dad loved it. Old. Extremely temperamental. Sometimes this one needed ten Hail Marys.

Gold Hyundai – had a tendency to go on strike, broke down a lot, might have been because of its nickname, The Hurt Locker (same car appeared in that movie, where it blew up).

Blue Kia – twenty thousand more miles and it was going to make it to the moon. My brother adopted it, invested in a lot of duct-tape, and I think it made it to the moon.

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