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Posts Tagged ‘classic cars’

Everyone has a hobby, whether it’s running up mountains or watching reality shows on the telly. Somewhere in between those two extremes lie the sort of pastimes that normal mortals can get passionate about, such as jogging and swimming, for the active, or crosswords and Sudoku, for the more sedentary.

Generously placing Geoff in the category of normal mortal, I have to admit it is no great surprise that a lifelong interest in things that go vroom-vroom means his hobby is cars. In particular, classic cars. Not the gleaming, superbly restored glamour vehicles of ye olden dayes, with leather-strapped bonnets and a pedigree to make grown men faint, but something a bit more vroom-vroomish and nippy yet with enough age about it to qualify for the definition of classic.

The interest, or should I say the passion, developed into a longing, and the longing turned into an urgent need the second Geoff spotted a For Sale advert for the car of his more realistic (by which I mean affordable) dreams.

The need was duly met, and he became the owner of a modest, feisty, occasionally moody drain on his finances that causes him both anguish and joy. That sounds like me, for the description certainly fits, although I’m afraid the four-wheeled object of Geoff’s affections is also racy and beautiful. But, get this, she’s inclined to be unreliable.

The vision of Basil Fawlty taking a branch to thrash the hell out of his broken-down car comes to mind every time Geoff tells me of the latest cough-and-splutter debacle that Carlotta has indulged in or the latest requirement for a this or a that to ensure she remains roadworthy.

Once, memorably, the branch-thrashing vision happened 30 miles from home. We were out together for what had started as a beautiful drive but which turned into a silent, tense hour of breath-holding as Geoff nursed Carlotta home at snail’s pace while she hiccupped and disgraced herself and I sank into the passenger footwell, willing the tarmac to open up and swallow me.

In due course, Carlotta was sent to the breakers, no, no, sorry, I mean the hospital for clapped-out classics, where something horrifyingly expensive was done to her and she returned home all smugly and going like a dream again.

Geoff still can’t talk about that day, and we certainly don’t mention the cost of the miracle, but I understand that such incidents are not uncommon in the world in which we now find ourselves.

I remain braced for more, but in the meantime I really enjoy sharing Geoff’s hobby. We tootle happily all over the place, appreciating life in the slow lane and acknowledging the waves of fellow enthusiasts.

On Sunday there were plenty of waves from onlookers, too, when we completed the Hardy Country Classic Tour, which took in 75 miles of glorious countryside. It was the greatest treat to be supporting charity while also revelling in the delight of Dorset in bloom.

Over every hill and through every gateway nature’s many shades of green provided a background for a heady palette of early summer colours.

It was a good day on all levels – even the picnic I’d made for our lunch-stop got a thumbs-up from Geoff – and Carlotta made it there and back without so much as a splutter.

As Geoff frequently reminds me, classic-car owning is a hobby with built-in excitement and surprise. There’s no saying if the car will break down, throw a fit, go like a dream – or even start. You don’t get that sort of thrill with crosswords.

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Another week, another chip in my poor car’s windscreen. This one, like the nasty one it suffered three months ago, is bad enough to require attention from someone who knows about chips, and so I shall have to muster the mental strength and the space in my diary to seek help.

It brings me, with sinking heart, back into contact with an insurance company, this time the car’s insurers. It is going to be doubly trying as it comes so soon after the grim skirmish with the home contents insurers when my mobile phone swallow-dived into water.

These experiences, now woven into the fabric of our daily lives, are defined by what I call the Equation of the Hapless Customer: small voice in wilderness + faceless company with automated phone system = frustration and loss of half a working day.

It’s what we are all up against, whether we are trying to contact insurers, as in this case, or any of the countless other businesses or public bodies that eschew customer service in favour of customer get lost. The factor they have in common is the ease with which they take our money and the poor hand they deal us in return. All we want is to speak to a person, so that when something vaguely recognisable as a human voice eventually responds, it would be swimmingly fab if they could just shut up and listen before spouting lines from a crib sheet.

OK, now that’s off my chest I’ll calm down and steer myself back to the happy memory of Sunday, when, glad to put the approaching storm of the chipped windscreen out of my mind, I accompanied petrol-head Geoff to the annual Classics at the Castle event at Sherborne Castle.

Such a setting in such weather would surely guarantee success whatever the event, but the attraction of a huge gathering of ancient and modern cars proved irresistible to thousands of happy punters. The ubiquitous bouncy castle, burgers, hot dogs and ice-creams probably played a part, too.

We loved it, walking miles and missing not a single one of the thousand-plus exhibits. Beside many of them sat their owners, like proud parents overseeing their well-behaved, shiny-faced offspring.

We heard stories of how new life had been given to so many vehicles that were no more than a car-shaped pile of rusty scrap metal when discovered. Now, the reborn, pampered beauties, unrecognisable in their perfection and unblemished by 21st century life – not a chipped windscreen to be seen – provoked Geoff and me into thinking along our favourite theme of “What if?”

Obviously, a spare garage and being reborn ourselves as qualified motor mechanics (I do like a nice set of greasy overalls), were two basics taken for granted. What car would we choose upon which to lavish our every waking hour and our last pound?

It would have to be an Austin Healey 3000, we decided, or perhaps a friendly old Riley with a running board. Then we saw a Jaguar SS 100 and added that to the fantasy list. We had to rein ourselves in as our imaginations ran wild, especially when I started lusting after a combine harvester that we followed on the way home.

It just seemed so majestic, filling the road in its superior way. Also, I pointed out to Geoff as I extolled its virtues for taking over our spare, expandable, virtual garage, I bet it doesn’t get its windscreen chipped all the way up there.

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