I like my car. I know it’s unfashionable these days, but then I am a deeply unfashionable person. My car is a Subaru Impreza, it has a daft fin on the back, it is the ‘classic’ Subaru blue and looks like the sort of thing a 25 year old male petrol-head might have. In fact 25 year old male petrol-heads do frequently challenge me to races which I decline with another of my deeply unfashionable habits, letting loose a tirade of invective. But all that aside, my car is actually practical. Yeah, right, girl petrol-head! I hear you cry. But it is. My car is four wheel drive and, when you live up a mountain amid ceaseless rain as I do, you need that. Many are the times I’ve trundled across the high moors of Lancashire and Yorkshire in the snow, passing abandoned non-four wheel drive cars as I go. Smug? Me? Well, I was.
Yesterday I had an ‘incident’. I was on a narrow country road in the middle of nowhere when I met a little Mini coming in the opposite direction. Roads like this are lined, often on both sides, with dry stone walls which widen out periodically on one side or another into passing spaces. These allow cars to pass each other relatively easily and prevent reversing marathons that would tax even Lewis Hamilton. The driver of the Mini had a passing space less than two metres behind. The passing space on my side was probably about 30 metres down a steep hill. And so I sat and waited for the Mini to do the ‘right’ thing. Nothing happened. I looked into the other car and saw first terror and then anger on the drivers face. No way was that car going to budge! And so if I didn’t want to sit there for the rest of my life I would have to reverse down a very steep hill beside an extremely wonky and eccentric dry stone wall. There was no point in reasoning with the other driver as fury had set in now and I could see that this person had managed to get from fear of reversing to hatred of me in one easy bound. I admit, it made me furious. And so determined to prove to the Mini that I didn’t care how new, shiny and funky that car was, I remained the better driver, I reversed too quickly and, guess what? Yes, I scratched the side of my car. A characteristic tirade of invective ensued, at myself for being so stupid. The Mini whizzed past unscathed with its driver looking on at me with marked superiority. If I hadn’t thought I would be mown down like grass I might have stepped out in front of the Mini and pointed out that the scratch on my wing was not entirely my fault. But then what, I ask you, would my death have achieved?
So now I’m in the hole for hundreds of pounds, it’s just before Christmas and I really didn’t need this. My own fault in so many ways, yes, but not entirely. Here in the UK a lot of store is set these days by theory when people take their driving tests. As well as a practical driving test there is also a written theory examination too. Jolly good. But I do think that a few sessions of what I call ‘meatball’ driving would be an excellent idea as well. What do I mean by this? Well, driving some narrow, wall-lined country roads around flooding rivers, loose animals and massive gaggles of hill walkers for a start. Maybe a session negotiating around Marble Arch in central London (close your eyes and cross yourself). Or even better, a day on the roads of İstanbul. Drive from Atatürk Airport across the city to the first Bosphorus Bridge and then cross it into Asia. For anyone who knows the city, my sadism will be obvious. For anyone who doesn’t, think periods of gridlock punctuated by short bursts of Formula 1.