Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday: past loves

It's Thursday so it's Throwback day!  I posted this pic (left) on Twitter but there's a limit to what you can say in only 140 characters so I thought I'd fill in the rest of the story on my blog.

I think this photograph is from 1989 or 1990. That's me sitting in "Iris" my Mark 4 Triumph Spitfire convertible. Iris rolled off the assembly line in 1973, so in 1989 she wasn't all that old, but by now she'd be a very old lady indeed. She was British Leyland Magenta, which is a kind of violet colour.

Some people buy a sports car because they are having a midlife crisis. I bought Iris after a particularly grisly romantic disaster. She was the ultimate impractical car. She didn't even go that fast!  Admittedly she could, as they say, turn on a sixpence, so she was ideal for rolling English country lanes, where you can't go that fast anyway unless you want to end up in a ditch. You could also park Iris anywhere, because she had such a tight turning circle and was so narrow.

The left-hand catch that was supposed to secure Iris' convertible hood was very worn so the hood didn't close properly. This meant that the wind could get in, and on occasion the hood was even known to open whilst I was driving along. Once or twice the rain got in too, and soaked the passenger seat, seeping right into the foam padding. The seat took a very long time to dry out, so passengers were likely to find themselves sitting in a puddle. What with the vibrations from the engine, it must have been like sitting in a very cold jacuzzi!

Actually, the list of things that weren't working quite as they should have was pretty endless. Sadly, my income wasn't, so I had to live with some of these things for a while before I could get them repaired.

The very first time I took Iris out for a long journey, my youngest sister and I drove from Chesham to Oxford for the evening. On the way home, Iris broke down on the edge of town, and flatly refused to roll another metre forward. By this time it was dark, and this being around 1989, neither of us had a mobile phone. I went to a nearby house, knocked on the door and asked to use their phone so that we could call the AA. Then I went back and sat in the car and waited. And waited. No sign of the AA. The lights in the house where I had knocked went out, so I didn't feel I could ask them again. Eventually, a police car drew up behind us and two policemen came to ask us what the trouble was. After I'd told them the car was new and I didn't know what was wrong with it, one them walked all around it, tapping the bodywork. Then he came back grinning his head off and said, "It's full o' pudding."
I'm still smarting about that remark over two decades later. It's like having someone tell you your gorgeous new boyfriend is an asshole. However, I'm grateful to the police for calling the AA (who hadn't been able to find us) and telling them where we were. We got towed home, ignominiously. The next day I incurred the first of a series of large car repair bills.

Iris and I eventually came to an understanding about her various foibles. For example, if the engine was left idling in hot weather she would overheat and break down. To avoid this, I could put the heating on full blast and let the heat wash through the interior of the car instead of building to a volcanic temperature under the bonnet. I am not sure if there is any mechanical basis for thinking that this would work, but it did seem to. I recall one particularly hot summer's day when I drove into London and got stuck in a traffic jam on the way home. I saw the temperature gauge rising so I put the heating on. Even with the hood down, I was soon being baked. Very unpleasant. The things we put up with for love...

And then there was the starter motor which didn't. Start, I mean. That issue was relatively simply resolved by keeping a geology hammer in the car. If the motor wouldn't start, I'd put the bonnet up, deliver a sharp blow to the starter motor with the hammer, and then it would generally work perfectly - until the next time it jammed up.

In spite of all this, I really loved Iris. There was nothing finer than travelling through the countryside on a sunny day with the hood down and music unravelling scratchily from the cassette player. I used to do up my hair in a silk scarf the exact same colour as the bodywork, and drive along with the ends blowing in the breeze behind me. It was a sure cure for woe and heartache.

Of course, all such improbable and impractical love affairs have to come to an end one day. I met my future husband; he subsequently moved to Merseyside and I used to drive up and down to see him most weekends, which wasn't practical in a very temperamental old sports car. Aside from the risk of breaking down, Iris wasn't fast enough and she didn't have a roll bar, so if I'd had an accident on the motorway the results would not have been pretty. We parted company and I got a much more practical car, who didn't have a name.

I didn't have any trouble finding a good home for Iris: the mechanic who had been patching her up for the previous year or two was very keen to take her off my hands. So keen was he, that I suspect the two of them had been flirting together for a long time before he made his move. I guess he was in a much better position to do all the maintenance she needed, so for all I know they may still be together. I hope so; she deserved to find everlasting love.

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