Some people you love without limitation. I have such people in my life, and it’s a joy to know them. Objects have always played a lesser role in my affections with one exception. My second car, bought when I was still young and slightly impulsive, as opposed to being older and more impulsive, was an old Daimler. By the time I got my hand on the steering wheel the car was already twenty years old but her body looked beautiful. A shining metallic sky blue with lovely deep chrome bumpers. The dashboard was real mahogany and the car was started by inserting and turning the key then pushing the starter button. The V8 engine purred into life but all you noticed was the movement of the rev counter as the engine came to life: the sound proofing was of the highest quality
More surprising is that I used to spend several hours cleaning the car at the weekend till it sparkled and shined inside and out and the interior smelt of well-loved leather. Quite often I used to receive compliments about the car and I drank these up with whatever shreds of modesty I could summon at the time. Showing off the car was never a problem. I had all the time you needed to praise and touch it. Sadly her mechanical condition was far removed from that implied by her bodywork, and she was at her best in the stationary position. Still, driving was a requirement, and when she was good she was very very good.
On a cool winters evening I was driving up the motorway to see a friend and stopped at a service station. As I filled her up with petrol a young french couple asked me if they could hitch a lift up the motorway. I was delighted to oblige. We cruised onto the motorway and sure enough the young man started up, “This is a fantastic motorcar”. “Thankyou I said”. “It is incredible” he continued”. “It has many qualities” I concurred, settling into what I thought was a delightful conversation full of insight and perception.
Embolden by the praise I flicked the indicator stalk, which was attached to the steering column, upwards ready to overtake the car ahead in a surge of underplayed power. Somewhat surprisingly the indicator stalk left its mounting and rose gently above my head before falling to the floor between my feet. Always calm in a crisis, I felt down and found the undisciplined item, returning it to the steering column. A sort of quizzical silence filled the car, and praise seemed to be a thing of the past. Still, she was running smoothly, I thought, as rain drops started to patter against the screen.
No problem with that, I turned the wiper button, and sure enough the blades moved firmly across the screen clearing away the water:.. at least for a short while. Then they froze somewhere in the middle of the screen which soon became quite hard to see through. Winding the window down I got a rag from the door compartment, and leaned forward crazily so I could clear a patch of glass. Unease now seemed to emanate from my two young fans who were to be seen clinging together on the rear seat. “Think Jeeves”, I thought and stayed impassively calm between periodic jerks forward to clear the window again.
A few short moments later, as I was cleaning the window , a deafening roar and banging sound filled the car, making that executive silence a thing of the past. Remaining calm, I tried to show through my manner that these things were common in the more select automobiles. The exhaust pipe had fallen off. My concentration was broken by a pat on the shoulder. Looking in the rear view mirror I saw the young french boy. “Let me out” he said. “Let me out of this car”. Clearly they were overburdened with enjoyment and felt they could take up no more of my time. Worship, I discovered, depended on not knowing too much about the object you revered.
I let them out of the car and went off in search of a garage. Curiously, I thought, they had failed to thank me for the ride. Pride often comes before a fall, or in this case a rather unpleasant bill. Still, such is life.