Friday, 8 October 2010

It's Just a Piece of Metal

Oh no it isn't!

This post is dedicated to all the cars we've loved and lost.

It's been a bit of a bad year for cars. In May my Hyundai Accent (one of the earlier models with the nice round bum) was written-off when someone in a RAV4 went into the back of me at a pedestrian crossing. Whilst the house on wheels didn't even have a scratch on it, the dent in my boot cost £700 more than the car was worth!

For a dent. In the boot.

A couple of weeks ago, I was off to do some voluntary work oop north when I ended up sandwiched between a lorry and another car on the M6. It could have been a lot worse than it was, and thankfully we all walked away unhurt. But, sadly, my beautiful Ford Puma (in 'pacific green') is no more.

I remember when the garage came to collect the Hyundai, and the gentleman duly informed me: "It's just a piece of metal." To emphasise his point, he explained how a previous lady had cried 'like a baby' when he went to collect her car, because she was so attached to it. 

Yet his wife had died of cancer.

Yes, put like that, on the grand scale of disastrous outcomes, better to lose your car than your life.

But, personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with being attached to your car.

My first attachment belonged to a very special car indeed. Between 2003/04, a friend and I spent the year bumming around Australia. We started in Melbourne, went fruit picking in Nyah, near Swan Hill, saved some cash, went back down to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road, up through Canberra, spent New Year in Sydney, then drove all the way across the Nullarbor to Fremantle and Perth. We stayed in Freo for several months before heading up to Alice Springs, down through the centre to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta, King's Canyon, Coober Pedy and Adelaide. It was quite a year.

We picked up our car, Grace, in Melbourne, and lived out of her for two weeks solid as we traversed the only southern road connecting East and West Australia. She carried our stuff, waited patiently whilst we introduced the concept of deep fried Mars bars to a small café in South Australia, even provided a modicum of excitement when her gear stick came out in my friend's hand whilst travelling downhill towards a major intersection.

What I'm saying is, there were memories. Memories that wouldn't have been without that car.

Grace in Nyah, Victoria

Most of my cars have been pass-me-downs. When my Nana died in 2006, she left me her car - a wee blue Citroën. One of my fondest memories was driving back down south, through the Lake District National Park. The most amazing sense of liberty...

I think that's why we get so attached to cars. They represent freedom. The freedom to come, to go, to arrive, to stay. Car - a word derived from the Celtic 'war chariot'. They give us a sense of possibility.

No, I might not drive to the South of France today. But the point is, I could.

As for Grace. Well, the Nullarbor took the last out of the old girl. She did us proud. My friend and I knew the fate of most old cars in the outback - they get beaten up in dirt races. We didn't want that to happen to her, so we went out of our way to find a mechanic who promised to use her for parts instead. So, somewhere out there is a little bit of her still driving along the open freeway.

We each kept one of her number plates, which I'm not sure you're supposed to do, but she really was quite special to us. We blubbed like big wusses as we turned and walked away.

This post is to all the cars we've loved and lost. Who'd want to drive a car without soul?

Wee Blue Citroën