Five-Pence Cars

If your eyes have glazed over previous posts (Arriva Arriva Andales Andales, Spilt Pips, Train-ing, Sushi), you will notice my running feud with public transport and I am in hope you will agree with my following statement.  Desperation calls for the need of a box on wheels.

Except it is not allowed to be just a box on wheels.  There is a further aspect to consider, the car will also need to be a substitute for a man and a baby, this is not such a crazy idea given a little background logic.  Car will do exactly as I say, when I say, how I say, I will not have to explain, give instructions or repeat myself.  I will have nobody else to blame for any variety of things that go wrong, except for me (i.e. no arguments and to be honest if you want want something done, best off always doing it yourself).  Car needs feeding only weekly, fortnightly or monthly and I have total control over the petrol cap – it stays down.

Any nasty surprises can be dealt with on the spot or whilst on a mini-break with the ladies and annual services ensure tip-top shape, condition and longevity of life.  Car will remain bosom buddy, loyal, never attract needless attention and will always be there, upon every whim and fancy, whenever required, at any time of day or night. Car even plays the music I love.  I do not even have to make a telephone call, or text, or tweet, or ping, or BBM, or email, or Facebook Message or make contact in any other way.  Car is, simply, always there – and can be exchanged for a completely different model if and when boredom sets in. It makes perfect sense.

Quite apart from having collected only a handful of five-pence pieces inside a pretty wine bottle stolen from an ex-flatmate that has not seen donation for some seven months, what kind of car would I actually buy?

Aston Martin DB9.

Need I say more?  Yes, I think I do, because this Magnum of ice-creams, is a cheeky lip-lick outside of my price range.

I would like a car, as if it is so easily procured as a penny sweet (which to be fair is quite effortless considering Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe’s are appearing in every shopping mall across England), that complements my personality.  I want a sporty car.  A coupé.  None of this posing drop-top bass-pumping I’m-renting-this-car-out-for-the-weekend-because-I-can’t-afford-the-monthlies-as-I’m-on-benefits fake-swag.  Since I am by myself I may as well advertise it with two-doors, so let me do it with verve and style.  Plus, it is a good defence from overhead birds who have been food poisoned by tarmac’d polluted worms and such like.

What else should I look for in a car, should I use the same tick boxes as the Match dating website (strap-line, Start your love story)? This is not a half bad plan or an idea half-baked as at first you may think, an expert opinion is sought.

“Let’s get some of the people from dating agencies into car dealerships. Instead of simply looking at the number of seats, fuel consumption, 0-60 times and whether or not leather seats are an option, look at your personality and see if it matches the car you’re considering.”  (Extracted from “So, what do you drive?” by Adam Sloman.)

A car that personifies who I am?  Hmm.  Does such a car even exist for me?

I can review this notion from a backwards stance.  I understand the type of car I do not want, i.e. one that gets me from A to B via C with a free-spirited tom-tom in tow: been there, done that, got the accident (lost the No Claims and gained increased premiums).  Therefore, all Fiat, Ford, Peugeot, Renault, Rover and Vauxhall type are out of the motoring question.  These are safe cars or rather, girly-girl cars, off the list.

Nissan is dusted too. Next!  We have Citroën, no, this is deleted as well, except for the DS3 which seems to be cute, sharp and quirky, Car of the Year 2010 don’t you know, but it is hardly a vehicle for aspiration, I am no longer a teeny-bopper.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audis etc the actual ‘proper’ cars, I would love, however, that five-pence will probably buy me 1ml of spray paint.

Although some of the models in these ranges can be ‘snazzy’, they are all pretty standard everyday run of the mill cars for standard everyday run of the mill people with a 4.8 family, which is fine if you have a 4.8 family there is nothing wrong with this picture, except I do not have a 4.8 family.

I do not have any little monsters requiring being cellotaped to safety seats for fidget prevention so even though Range Rover, BMW X5/X6, Audi Q7s etc are indeed the buzzing knees of bees, they have unfortunately also been stricken from my list.  Lest we not forget, I am saving for a car with five-pence pieces (and pretend Monopoly money).

None of the above matches my 1-person-life-personality. Do not even mention a Smart Car which is in fact the literal definition of a box on wheels although I have seen the charging stations near St Paul’s Cathedral (London) and thought How cute but I quickly discarded the thought, and shuddered for even thinking on the possibility.

If I could get my hands on a Honda Civic Type R, I might be mildly impressed with myself. This is more Grrrr! I have written before that I was meant to be a boy…aesthetically, it’s that menacing grille and the triangular exhausts, it’s like a seashell but for land only.  Let’s not go into detail about the captivation of the drive, I will be here all day and you’ve more than likely already lost the biscuit in your cup of tea.

I have come to the conclusion that encompassing all of the above, due care, attention and love will need to be provided to the chosen car which is why the correct car for my personality needs to be selected. Or life will dissipate into madness, nightmares and broken hearts engines.  Let’s recap a history of car ownership…

Five years after passing my driving test (third time lucky) and moving back to my home town Birmingham, I thought it was about time I took to the road.  My first car was donated to me by my parents.  A 2.0L Rover something or other.  The only descriptive I can provide is ‘dark green’, like a forest, and it grew on me.  I envisaged myself as being encapsulated in lush jungle vegetation and although it was a large vehicle, I could manoeuvre it quite well. Power steering is always almost most certainly a blessed intervention.

I was temping for the Oncology Department in Heartlands Hospital.  It was a fairly normal, uneventful morning and I had perhaps been driving for at least two days(!) without issue, stupidly growing in confidence.  On my third day at the hospital, numerology playing no part here, I was driving along an empty road without a care in the world singing along with some random tracks on Galaxy FM and the traffic lights were changing to *red*.  Me, literally trying to be a hero (I really had the mentality of a boy-racer as I think back), figured Ah, what the hell and I engaged in a race with the lights.  The work of Einstein this…

So I steered too harshly to the left (darn! power steering!), unable to view the sharpness of the bend for the trees (darn! forest car!) as I crashed into a parked-up (yes, as in stationary!) beautifully sparkling 5-Series Estoril Blue BMW (DARN!) that was happily minding its own business.

The owner was sitting in a café in a parade of small retail outlets, sipping his early morning creamy cappuccino munching an almond biscotti. I bet he wished he could press the rewind button and edit his car out of playback as the entire scene unfolded before his very eyes, it was probably like watching a movie, like maybe Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)

I learned that only experience allows you to judge speed correctly and that attempting to beat traffic lights at some 50mph is perhaps not a genius idea as my swinging back-end careered me forward crushing the oil-painted sky-on-the-ground in front of me into a crippling pile of metal mass.

I was thus downgraded to a 1.0L Nissan Micra. Sad times. Which was actually the sweetest thing.  I tend to ignore silver cars, they are not special and do not appeal, but I did forsake my dislike on this occasion, for my one-person-Micrascopic spaceship.  It was really shiny.  My kid self felt like an astronaut every time I entered the vehicle.  I was me inside this little bubble of mine.

The plate read XJI, perhaps ‘jinx’ if I was dyslexic (add a letter to make the word) but I had a great time with this car flying over no-purpose ramps (waste of tax-payer money but anywho), my iddy biddy Micra-man did not really have a suspension so there was nothing to break, thankfully, as you can probably imagine.  We pushed each other to our limits on the motorway, even though the experience resembled riding a moped.  Anti-climax.  But for 1.0L what more was I to expect? I told myself.

The more I thought about how well my driving was coming along and how for the first time, something I thought was a jinx was in fact not, lo and behold, the greatest story was yet to be unravelled.  After a slight mishap where I accidentally drove up the wrong way on a single-direction side-street (I am not even going to attempt to defend myself but I will gently highlight that I had only been driving a month since being five years out of test practice) and I accidentally scratched a silver Mercedes I was trying to pass, at the exact moment Jummah (Islamic Friday prayers) finished right outside the masjid (mosque).

In what seemed like a second, I was completely surrounded by an amount of men I had never before witnessed in my entire life, I wanted to die a very small invisible death.  There is a scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) where a word beginning with ‘F’ is written in white copy across the screen inside speech marks with repetition on the letter ‘u’ ending with an exclamation point.  This was how the word was appearing in my mind.  With double the quantity of ‘u’s.  In block capitals. Additional exclamation points.

Mr Owner was of course b.a.l.l.i.s.t.i.c, understatement, understandably.  But in my head I was thinking Oh my goodness (OMG had not yet been invented) , I so totalled a brand new BMW and this crazy man is crying more tears over a two-centimetre scratch on a 1982 Mercedes than the other did for the Estoril write-off. And we are silver together, you can barely see the mark. I was alert and calm enough to keep this valuable piece of information to myself though he could probably see it in my eyes.

Imagine a flame.  And then an entire room full of moths.  I was the flame in the middle of the road and those leaving masjid were swooping down on me, and rightly so, with words of anger and abuse because i). I was blocking all the traffic, ii). My car was pointing in the wrong direction, iii). Mr Owner was causing a furore because of the scratch, iv). I was unable to drive forwards or backwards as vehicles were bumper-to-bumper (the avenue’s packed I tried to refrain from bursting into Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby lyrics, I failed) and double-parked on both sides, v). They were hungry after prayers, they wanted to leave for home.

If there was any one time in my life where I wanted the ground to swallow me up alongside my spaceship and spit me into the depths of hell, it was this moment.  For some reason, he did not want to swap insurance details and was demanding an instant cash settlement upwards of £500 (!)  I was stunned into silence, trying to fathom from where I was supposed to magic these finances, Oh my god, Ummi Ji (Mum) is going to flip. Again. Thankfully someone recognised me and I was saved Do you know who this is? boomed a voice that even I did not know, I turned around to see a stranger, Don’t you speak to her like that bro, chat to Zahid and he’ll sort you out yeah, she’s his sister! Take his number, ring him, leave it to that, we need to fix up the roads!

I am in fact Mamoo (Uncle) Zahid’s niece but resembling my mum so much, the boy thought I was the sister. Eternally grateful, I uttered a hundred Thank-you’s. Mr Owner finally disappeared with an If I had known who you were… and showerings of immediate apologies, and I pulled into the tiny car park until the drama died down.

And there you were wondering why I am using public transport…

After this incident, I was ridiculously over-cautious, but I practically re-taught myself everything.  My Micrasonic and I exacted forty-five degree angle pavement parking to escape having to leave the car three and a half roads away (ten cars per household dramatically reduced parking facilities), and we perfected reverse- forward- park into the tightest spots that even some of the boys refused to try.  How smug was I. Aaah, happy memories.  I was finally a driver.

Time went by and I started to notice that every Asian girl on the block was betrothing herself to Mister Micra, Aargh, I thought, they’re everywhere.  It was time to part ways with my beloved spaceship, and move on.  I was so unhappy to see Micralogic leave, sorrowful in fact.  It nearly brought a tear to my eye.  I could barely say goodbye.  Recently however, I have found out that it lives near to me and is keeping well, I hide every time I see it so that I do not feel remorse for letting go, but I reminisce the happiness and wonderment at all the adventures we shared together.

I part-exchanged my brave Micra for an extroverted electric blue 1.2L Fiat Punto, all dolled up with low sporty body-coloured bumpers.  SM05, the letters reminded me of samosa, so it was my little blue samosa.  My pride and my joy.

Until it was broken into ten times over and the electric window was impenetrably temperamental that I had to keep taking it to the garage, where the forty-something-married-with-fifty-kids Garage Owner relentlessly asked me out to dinner but this is another story in itself.

Then, somebody crashed into my back wing, and one more time for good measure after it was repaired.  Karma for 5-series methinks.  The relationship with my samosa was bringing me no luck at all, we reached stale-mate. As if to add insult to injury or indeed the final nail in the coffin, my samosa was stolen from me on a warm summery evening, it disappeared into the depths of criminal history and I never saw or heard from it again.  My heart broke into a million smithereens, I lamented my lost love for almost two weeks.  Letters from insurance companies tend to heal pain and wounds quite rapidly…

It was time for ice-cream.  My 1.6L Mini-Cooper, the colour of ivory tusks with two black racing stripes either side of the bonnet, panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, turbo-charged engine, my little minx.  The love affair started as soon as I hit the motorway, windows down, roof fully open, music maxed out.  I may as well have been in a convertible, it was that good, I kid you not.

I mastered the art of narrow country lane driving with the Coop, even if I did somehow end up on a tractor lane on some farm in Wiltshire in the dead dark of night, this is the free-spirited tom-tom referred to earlier.  Darling car, how I miss you now.  I was smashed into at a roundabout and the Coop didn’t quite fully recover, it was never the same again.

Bye Bye Mini-Cooper.

We parted eighteen months ago.  I have been unable to move on, however, I am a grown-up now, and in this supposition I would prefer a grown-up car if I was to axe public transport from my life.  In this transformation of character through previous car history, I have actually come to understand what I am looking for in a car, and I am more so than ever to agree that a car is a representation of aspiration.  I seek a rather sleek, beautiful, gun-metal-grey fluid aluminium body with diamondly glinting 21” alloys, lush interior with the immense power of a breaking horse (view the spinning B’s).  Yes, I speak of The Car.  Not the A to B via C type car.  The Car.  Dream car.  That will stay with me for all time.  My baby Bentley Continental GT.  Melts. My five-pence pieces have a fairly long way to go before they see the light of day, but each silver piece is the silver lining of every cloud I will enjoy up until that glorious moment.

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