A couple of years ago I bought a secondhand and not particularly new convertible BMW. My younger work colleagues gleefully viewed this as irrefutable proof of an impending mid-life crisis, and elsewhere accusations of owning a ‘vehicle more suited to the hairdressing profession’ were rife. Nonetheless, I regard this car with disproportionately high affection and go to great lengths to protect it from scuffs, dents and general wear and tear. Visits to the supermarket take twice as long due to my endless circuiting of the car park and trying to find the perfect parking spot (preferably one where at least one side of the car wont have to have another car parked next to it), and my poor girlfriend’s attempts to drive the thing are constantly undermined by the white-knuckled and panicky owner sat beside her. I am informed by other similar car owners and their long-suffering partners that this behaviour is not uncommon, but it is decidedly exasperating for all concerned. A Porsche owning friend even confided a sense of relief when he finally sold his pride and joy, and was able to sail (?) into town with gay abandon in a Y-reg Astra without giving a flying fig for what happened to it in his absence.
Anyway, as life rolls on, a two seat sports car becomes seemingly harder to justify. My other half, bless her, is very supportive of keeping the beamer, but really we both know the awful truth. We need a new car. And by new, I mean different, not additional. The summer is traditionally the best time of year for selling a soft-top, so I am fast running out of time on this one.
With this in mind, it seemed obvious to make one of the List of Forty Things a trip in the car as a kind of last hurrah. Plans were quickly made, and France was selected as the destination du choice. Preparation was paramount and I eagerly strode into Halfords with my list of accessories required for the trip. Turns out though that blowing your hard-earned on warning triangles, high viz jackets, and headlamp converters is not in the least bit rewarding. Headlamp converters… Do they actually make much difference? The manufacturers instructions to apply them with the lights actually on ‘whilst looking into the beam’ (I paraphrase) is surely a mean joke aimed at overly enthusiastic motorists who give their wives and children far less attention than they deserve. Fifteen seconds of this was enough to have me twisting my fists into my eye sockets, willing the painfully vivid blotches of turquoise and purple to disappear ASAP. The final insult came with the application of the dreaded magnetic GB sticker applied to the rear. I doubt whether the chief designer at BMW had a gaudy black and white oval in mind when he lovingly created the rear of my motor.
Still, it was with great excitement and anticipation that I nursed the car onto a Norfolk Line ferry bound for Dunkirk. Not quite the British Expeditionary Force, but we still had enough gear in the boot to supply a small army. Pleas from the other half to bring back a bottle or two of the good stuff were silenced somewhat as every nook and cranny was taken up with tents, stoves, and rucksacks. Every available space seemed to have something wedged in it. As we ventured off the boat and onto French soil, cars seemed to be falling by the wayside in not inconsiderable numbers. I can only imagine the heated debates going on between stressed drivers and passengers about needing the loo already and what do you mean you thought I had the directions??
We returned bronzed and relaxed, and would very much recommend a sortie onto the continent to anyone on two or more wheels. Driving is a piece of cake – far easier than trying to put a brand new tent up after guzzling too much French beer whilst watching Germany demolish England, anyway – and the change of pace welcome. Sat nav just takes away any direction-related aggro, and you can just point the car and go. Or in my girlfriend’s case, fall asleep.
The whole trip has of course backfired spectacularly. One of the Forty Things is now done. But sell the car? Are you mad?