She was old. She was full of holes. She was rusty. And I loved her.
LYL 676D to use her full name. But ‘Lyl’ to me. My first car: my first love.
Lyl was a white mini. I bought her with the fruits of a summer spent calling bingo numbers. Then I drove her proudly back to university. Would any girl be able to resist me now I could whisk her off to the seaside at a moment’s notice?
I suggested as much to Amanda Jowett. “Frankly,” she said, “I’d rather take up stamp collecting.”
One of the better put-downs. Besides, ‘whisk’ was a relative term. Nought to sixty only if Lyl could be bothered. And if she was going downhill.
A year passed. The nice man in the garage had described it as “A tiny little rust spot which we’ve definitely treated.” Now it consumed most of Lyl’s front wing. She was an increasingly frequent visitor to the repair shop. I became depressingly familiar with John shaking his head and starting a sentence with, “Doesn’t look good…”
Autumn gave way to winter. At which point Lyl’s heater stopped working. This was bad news for the girl with green eyes and tumbling hair I’d just started dating. “It’s not very romantic is it?” she protested when I took her out for a drive – and wrapped her feet in newspaper.
But there was worse to come. The disease in the front wing had spread to the floor. It now had an automatic climate control device. Or – if you want to be blunt – a bloody big hole.
I turned a corner and went straight through a large puddle. Water fountained elegantly up through the hole and scored a direct hit on the girl with the green eyes.
And the sodden hair.
Eventually, reader, I married her. But not for a long time – and not before I was driving a rather smarter car…
I loved Lyl. With the exception of my steamy affair with an early-model Scirocco she was my favourite car. She had character. She needed driving. She didn’t give you a bollocking every time you forgot to put your seat belt on.
True, she had certain disadvantages.
The window-winder had an irritating habit of falling off. Always when the windows were down. And there was that time both windscreen wipers blew away on the M62. In a blizzard.
But it was all good fun…
…Which my children will never know.
Tom was talking about his first car when he was last home. “I think I might buy an Alfa Romeo,” he mused. Alright, fair point. He’s going to work in F1. A Volkswagen Sensible probably means automatic dismissal.
But, Tom, think of everything you’ll miss.
You’ll never know the sheer joy of finally getting your car to start on a winter’s morning after spending ten minutes rubbing the sparking plugs with your old underpants.
You’ll never lovingly tuck your car up for the night. Lyl didn’t like the cold and the wet. So I’d tuck her in: keep her warm and dry. A couple of sheets over the bonnet – and on really cold nights Mum’s old carpet directly on top of the engine. I forgot one day: I drove 50 miles with the carpet still under the bonnet. Lyl wasn’t fussed.
The fan belt went once. We were twenty miles from the nearest garage. But hadn’t I read that you could use a pair of tights as a temporary fan belt? “No, honestly,” I pleaded. “It’s not a trick to get your clothes off. But I need your tights.”
Thank God I wasn’t with Amanda Jowett. I’d still be in the lay-by…
Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here.