I have had reason to examine my relationship to those contraptions called cars lately. When it initially became evident a new vehicle would have to enter my life (for reasons of age and infirmity) I was thrown into a consumer crisis which took months to resolve. About six to be precise. The process has revealed a number of things to me, the first of which is a badge of shame: it turns out that I care, rather more than I would like, what car I drive. In theory I am not at all concerned with brands and badges, or whether something comes ‘fully-loaded’. All I care about is fuel economy and CO2 emissions. But as I got into it, it did really matter to me that the car was not fundamentally ugly. So now I had to account not only for my parsimonious and green sensibilities, but an aesthetic one as well. Already, what had seemed like the straightforward job of replacing a car had become fraught with difficulty and challenges to one’s sense of self.
I will not bore the blog with all the turns and twists of my mind over the six months, but my investigations into the modern, fuel efficient car, revealed that, for some inexplicable reason, modern car manufacturers are making some bastard ugly vehicles. Or, cars that look the same as another. Or cars that don’t look the same as another, and aren’t too ugly but are dull and so lacking in character that if you drove them for more than five minutes you would fall asleep from boredom. To solve the problem I began to wonder if I could walk and cycle everywhere, but the children often need to be in two different places at the same time, as do I and, without the option of a teletransporter, it was clear a car was more or less a necessity. This was a disappointment. The next was that I couldn’t afford an electric car, which offers a limited daily driving range, but motoring that costs about 1p a mile which is a joyous concept in these straitened days.
I retired one car to a more gentle pace of life in the country with some dear friends, the other sat outside making me feel bad. Her front grilles fell out, I drove over one. Her tyres were nearly bald and went unreplaced due to the diagnosis of a dodgy timing belt and a leaking coolant system. After many years of loyal service, the car was being betrayed. At the end of last month, twisting the knife, the car tax went unrenewed. The scrap dealer was called in. On the first occasion I couldn’t go through with it. After another month she has had to go. They turned up in a car transporter yesterday and she started up with gusto and drove straight on to it with not a bother on her. ‘There is nothing wrong with this car,’ I said grudgingly to the man. He placated me with words about her great age and costs of work and then drove away with the old car and disappeared to wherever it is that elderly cars end their days. I found myself wishing I had kept the chrome gear stick knob that used to be freezing in mid-winter and make a pleasant sound when I clunked my rings on it.
I was also close to tears.
To be continued.